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By JARROD POTTER

IT’S that time of year again, where the TAC Cup and VFL’s best hope to hear their name read out at the AFL National Draft – held this year on the Gold Coast on Thursday 21 November. Our first nominee to the Pakenham Gazette’s DRAFT FILE is Devon Meadows midfielder James Harmes – a tough, inside extractor that can also get loose on the wings to damaging effect.

AFL DRAFT FILE
JAMES HARMES
Height: 183cm
Weight: 75kg
Recruited: Devon Meadows/Dandenong Stingrays
Highlights: Victoria Country representative, TAC Cup grand finalist, Dandenong Stingrays Most Determined Award winner, AFL National Combine invitee.
Projected range: Round 3-Rookie Draft
EVERY step of James Harmes’ football journey has seen blowback.
Last year he wasn’t sure if he’d remain on the Stingrays list – and had to return to Devon Meadows to work on a few things as a 17-year-old – but his return to the side in the lead-up to the 2012 finals was stellar.
He returned to the team stronger and more intent on gaining the tough possessions this season – and was given that opportunity by coach Graeme Yeats through the midfield.
From his 16 TAC Cup matches this season, Harmes featured in the best sporadically, but kept plugging away throughout a fairly difficult season on the track – even despite the Stingrays making the grand final.
He lined up for Victoria Country in the AFL National Under-18s Championships and while the season didn’t end of the best note, with the 112-point grand final loss to Eastern Ranges, he performed well at the National Combine and grabbed the attention of a couple of clubs.
Word is Sydney is keen on the Panthers/Stingray alumnus – interviewing him at the Combine. While that isn’t a sure thing in this business, the interest is certainly well-intentioned and could lead to that magical moment that every boy grows up wanting to achieve.
When he talked to the Gazette at the start of the year, he said it didn’t matter where the AFL system took him – he’d be keen to give it a go – which given the current climate of “homesickness” and “come-home syndrome” circulating the AFL is a breath of fresh air.
“It would be my dream to get drafted so it would be pretty cool if I did,” Harmes said in an interview in February
“I wouldn’t mind moving away from Victoria – I don’t know – it’s a tough question – if I got drafted I wouldn’t mind where I went and I guess you have to make your family up there with all the boys.
“Spoke to Lachie Whitfield (former Dandenong Stingray) and he said it’s pretty hard to move away, but he’s moved in with one of the other blokes up there and said that’s all right.”
Dandenong Stingrays 2013 assistant coach Craig Black – who was recently announced as 2014 head coach – had a lot to do with moulding Harmes into a better brand of footballer – getting his head over the ball and helping him build his speed.
“I think Harmesy improved- I think sometimes when you coach a kid – I had a lot to do with him being in the midfield – you probably mark him pretty hard and it’s not until you sit back and think ‘Geez, he had a good game ’ that day.
“Halfway through the year he worked really hard – he got a game in the Vic Country team and was a 50/50 whether he’d get a second – and he played well.
“He sort of turned his game around – worked some areas as a club – and he ran some stoppages, using his pace winning a lot more footy in the second half of the year and I think he grew a bit too -in height and physically as well. “He realised what he could do when he played certain roles and learned what he could do.”

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