By sports editor Russell Bennett
Young Korumburra-Bena Giant Bailey Patterson just continues to grow in stature with every game of senior footy he plays, and at 11am tomorrow at Avalon Airport Oval in Werribee he gets another chance to prove himself at a high level.
Out of the Gippsland Power system, Patterson has been one of the biggest standouts so far in a developing season for the Giants under senior coach Paul Alger.
Patterson, who doesn’t turn 19 until Sunday, will represent the ‘Country’ side against ‘City’ tomorrow as part of the Young Guns Series, which provides players aged 22-and-under the chance to showcase their skills in front of AFL recruiters.
Patterson will be mixing it with players from across the NAB League and VFL, and elite talents from the local area including Riley Verbi, Mason DeWit, Corey Ellison, Darcy Fritsch, and Boadie Motton.
Former Dalyston star Michael Marotta, currently on Collingwood’s VFL list, will also line up in the contest.
Tom Jok and Lachie Young were two of the players involved last year who’re now on AFL lists – with Essendon and the Western Bulldogs respectively.
In speaking to the Gazette about his young charge in Patterson, Alger was full of praise.
In a cut-throat senior WGFNC season against a host of vastly more experienced outfits, in which the Giants have won four games so far, Alger hasn’t had the luxury of slowly bringing Patterson along. While he would typically play more on the outside in a proven, established lineup, he’s been playing the role of the ball-winner often this season at the Showgrounds.
He’s had to mature into a bonafide senior star at a young age, but neither of them would have it any other way.
“Not only can he win his own ball, but he can also do a job on an opponent as well,” the highly-respected Alger said of Patterson’s versatility.
“He’s got great leg-speed, and is strong overhead for his size too – it’s not like he’s just a crumber.”
Officially, Patterson is listed at 178-centimetres and 67 kilograms – but he’s got the heart of a lion.
“He’s still only 18, but we’ve got 16 kids under the age of 20 playing in our seniors so he’s got to create his own enthusiasm – they all do,” Alger said.
“He’s just a really rounded player and does everything well. He’s got a bit of a way to go, but he’s only a kid and I think we’re only just scraping the surface with what he can do.”
Patterson is already relied upon to be one of the Giants’ most consistent contributors, and it’s a challenge he relishes.
“He’s answered every question we’ve asked of him,” Alger said.
“When he’s playing with us, we need him to get down and dirty, which I reckon would hold him in great stead for a higher standard.
“When he came back from playing interleague, he just went to another level with us.”
Indeed, Patterson was one of the biggest standouts for Mark Lafferty’s senior West Gippsland side that proved far too strong for Ellinbank at Yarragon earlier this season.
When given the chance to rise to the occasion, Patterson did exactly that – and it would hardly be a surprise to see him do the same tomorrow.
The Young Guns program is being overseen for the second year by VFL coaching games record-holder Gerard FitzGerald.
Tom Curran is the coach of the Country side.