A new independent junior football program is looking to bridge the gap in the state between young AFL hopefuls and draft certainties.
The Future Goals Academy started last week after targeting aspiring footballers aged from 11 to 16 years of age.
It is not affiliated to AFL Tasmania, but state under-16 coach Nathan Warren is in charge since former AFL player Sam Lonergan left Launceston to coach at Woodville-West Torrens.
But Warren said ideally the academy could assist in identifying talent early prior to fast-tracking them towards Tasmanian selection.
He says the program has been given the full support from AFL Tasmania manager Craig Notman.
“We thought in the long run, it’s something that could eventually work in with the state program,” Warren said.
The academy offers a range of training in line with AFL combine practices that includes the Nathan Buckley kicking test, the state agility test, the running vertical jump, 20m sprints and 2km time trials to test participants up to draft age.
They will also have access to specialist programs, with a running coach, a nutritionist and mental health discussions as a part of the function of the academy.
Warren said it will take a lot of the guesswork to what level they have reached.
In the wake of the doldrums Tasmanian footy has faced in recent years, the program is a “great little start”.
“They don’t just need to sit in the backyard with dad; there’s actually somewhere where the kid can actually go and improve,” he said.
“For kids that really want to go somewhere with their footy, they can now learn a proper kicking technique, about body positioning in a game and I’m even doing all the draft testing.”
But Warren also warned the academy’s initial focus would not be on exclusively attracting elite players to participate in a 15-week pre-season at Windsor Park every Monday to prepare for a Tasmanian Devils’ TAC Cup season ahead.
More than 50 youngsters including at least eight females signed up to improve not only their football but life skills in a holistic approach that is moves away from traditional academy programs.
“It will provide the nutrition side of things to strength and conditioning, but we’re still getting the kids to enjoy it and be proud of their achievements,” Warren said.
The North Melbourne academy coach for Tasmania will also meet Hawthorn on Wednesday to discuss what community involvement the AFL club can have with up to 60 capped participants.
The football not-for-profit organisation costs have been reduced to $150 per player, with its board claiming sponsors have subsidised the cost by around $300 for every participant.