Tunbridge back in the mix
After walking out on Greater Western Sydney almost two weeks ago, promising key position player Simon Tunbridge has nominated for the 2011 NAB AFL Draft in the hope of launching his AFL career in Perth.
Tunbridge, who hails from Dongara in WA’s mid west, joined the Giants in December as a 17-year-old under the club’s pre-draft concessions, but battled homesickness for much of his time in Blacktown.
The 18-year-old’s draft nomination was confirmed late this week, however, his path to either Fremantle (which provisionally holds draft picks 16, 20 and 29) or West Coast (23 and 28) is not clear cut.
It is understood a number of Victorian clubs are interested in the versatile key forward and would not be deterred by the teenager’s battle with homesickness if he were the best player available to them.
Tunbridge’s stocks appear to have dropped in the 12 months since he was pre-listed by GWS, and recruiters are struggling to place him in this year’s draft pool after a season interrupted by injury.
Bypassing this year’s NAB AFL Under-18 Championships because of his involvement with GWS also means recruiters have not been able to see him playing against other potential draftees.
Making Tunbridge an attractive option for clubs – and thus his bid to return to WA more difficult – is the lack of top-end key position players available in this year’s draft.
At 191cm, Tunbridge can play at either end of the ground, has excellent ball use and is a strong overhead mark.
Representing Perth in the 2010 WAFL colts competition, he averaged seven marks and kicked 19 goals in 14 games with his versatility catching the Giants’ attention.
“He had the shape and size to play in a variety of spots, even at a pinch as a tall midfielder,” WA Football Commission high performance manager Craig Starcevich said.
“It was a little bit of a surprise to see him taken [by GWS] ahead of Shane Kersten at the time, but I think the thing that appealed most about him was that he had some flexibility in the roles he could play.”
Tunbridge has cited homesickness as the reason he wants to return to WA, and Starcevich said expansion clubs had to invest heavily in player welfare, particularly when recruiting players one year ahead of schedule.
“GWS are really going overboard in terms of making that part of Sydney an impressive place to live,” he said.
“The perception is that’s going to be the hardest part of the sell, to keep players staying in that neck of the woods, but by all reports they’re doing a fair job of it.
“I think all clubs are wary of it, and they all do plenty in terms of player welfare to make sure the boys survive the first year.”