A broken arm derailed Declan Zasadny’s blistering start to last year’s under-14 national championships, but not before talent scouts jotted his name down in their notebook.
In just four games the 14-year-old netted nine goals, including four in a 4-1 rout of New South Wales Country and braces in comfortable wins over Newcastle and Queensland Country.
Four months later, the six-foot-two striker is packing his bags to take up a scholarship at Victoria’s only government-funded sports school, Maribyrnong Sports Academy.
Zasadny’s progression through the ranks has come as little surprise to Southern Raiders junior coach Peter Lanham, who first laid eyes on the West Launceston talent three years ago.
“Declan first came to our club around 11 or 12 and it was fairly evident around that point in time he had ability and the skills, but one of the important things that stood out for me as a coach were his leadership qualities,” Lanham said.
“I’ve found in my time with playing and coaching that leadership qualities only come a bit later on in life - in your late teens to mid-20s - so for him to have that natural leadership ability stood out to me and was something I knew would take him along way into the game in the future.”
The brother of Tasmanian under-18 basketball captain Hayden, Zasadny started out at Westside Devils before becoming a Raider and trained with NPL side Launceston City last year.
Lanham said the St Patrick’s College student boasted great pace for his height, and was well deserving of the opportunity to train among some of the country’s most promising juniors.
“He has a lot of speed and agility … I keep saying leadership, his work off the field is massive and I think a lot of that combining - he’ll work as hard off the field as on the pitch,” Lanham said.
“He’s a player that can back himself in most situations … when his back’s against the wall and his teammates, he’ll step up.”
Zasadny will fly to Victoria with his mother next week and will start his first school term before the month is out, training up to four mornings a week with Football Federation Australia’s high performance group.
There his progress will be monitored by his favourite A-League club Melbourne City - who already boast Northern Tasmanian talent Nathaniel Atkinson – as he pursues a path to professional leagues.
“As a footballer everyone wants to make a dream - I’m working hard for it on and off the pitch,” Zasadny said.
“Everyone wants to go pro, that’s the main goal but the next goal is probably making the Joeys team and [eventually] progress to the Australian team.
“I just love being out there and scoring goals.”