Kimberley kid leaps into spotlight
AFL draft hopeful Waylen Manson has a knack of getting noticed.
The raw 195cm talent had been in Perth less than a week – for a short playing stint aimed at improving his AFL prospects – when he made his Claremont colts debut in August.
It was a confronting scenario for the 18-year-old so far from his home in the remote Aboriginal community of Billiluna, 180km south-east of Halls Creek in WA’s Kimberley region and perched on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert.
Manson answered the challenge just four minutes into the contest. He took a mark across half-forward and unleashed a helicopter punt that sailed through for the first goal of the match.
He finished the game with 4.5 to his name, only to double that tally a fortnight later in his second colts appearance with an eye-catching eight-goal haul.
The performance reinforced what Claremont football manager Dean Horsington had heard about Manson through the club’s talent programs.
“He’s a unique player,” Horsington said. “He’s got a huge leap and reads the ball really well. He’s a natural we think and will only excel if he gets an opportunity at the next level.
“He’ll have periods where he’ll be uncomfortable and it may take a while to adjust to an AFL environment, but once he does the upside for Waylen is huge.”
Manson yesterday joined a record 20 WA players, including potential No.1 draft pick Stephen Coniglio, to fly to Melbourne to attend the NAB AFL National Draft combine going from today until Friday.
Another 24 footballers will be tested at WA’s State combine on October 16.
Manson is still an unknown quantity.
He recorded a 70cm standing vertical jump in testing with Claremont in January – just 8cm short of the national record set by Nic Naitanui in 2008 – but was not part of the State 18s academy program and has played little more than a handful of matches in Perth.
One of those appearances came at this year’s Landmark Country Football Championships in July. The high-flying forward, who has drawn comparisons to Western Bulldogs livewire Zephaniah Skinner, was judged best on ground in the grand final.
Manson kicked five goals and took a game-saving pack mark deep in defence with seconds to play to ensure the Kimberley Spirit’s A-grade colts division side went through the competition undefeated.
“From the conversations I’ve had with a lot of AFL clubs I know there’s a genuine interest,” Horsington said.
“I’ve never seen so many recruiters come and watch a Landmark Championships game.”
Sydney father-son recruit Tom Mitchell, Swan Districts pair Corey Gault and Murray Newman, and South Fremantle colts premiership quartet Shane Kersten, Myles Bolger, Brendon Ah Chee and Steven Verrier are also attending the national combine.