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Young Mitch looks the AFL goods

Wednesday, 30th March, 2011

By John Casey

Talented Broken Hill teenager Mitch Henderson has been earmarked as an AFL player of the future.

The 14-year-old Willyama High School student has finished ahead of more than 150 other hopefuls to win a spot in the academy of new AFL franchise the Greater Western Sydney Giants.

Henderson impressed selectors with his athleticism and skills during the recent trials and will now line up against the best junior talent in NSW in Sydney in less than three weeks.

"Playing in the trial matches was a great experience," an excited Henderson said yesterday.

"I played in the ruck and also in the forward pocket and managed to kick a goal in one of the matches, so I was pretty happy with the way I went.

"When I found out that I had made the squad I was stoked, but not as excited as my Mum who went running up the hallway," he added.

GWS Giants' Academy Manager Lachlan Buszard said Henderson had displayed all the fundamentals of a young, developing AFL player.

"Although only lightly-framed, Mitch has a lot going for him such as fantastic agility, good awareness and his ability to read the play," Buszard said from the

Giants' Sydney headquarters yesterday.

"Being selected in our academy squad effectively rates him in the top 60 players in New South Wales for his age, and the challenge for Mitch is to now maintain that high standing.

"Players can't be drafted into the AFL until they turn 18 and from what we have seen so far there is every reason to believe Mitch can reach that elite level," Buszard continued.

If Henderson continues to develop as the Giants anticipate and is drafted by the new franchise he has the potential to earn more than $100,000 in his rookie AFL season as an 18-year-old.

"It's always been a dream of mine to play AFL, and now I have taken another step forward it's hard not to think about the future," Henderson, who plays locally for the South Football Club Under-16s said.

"But I have to get there first before I start thinking about the money or anything like that," he added.

The arrival of the Giants on the AFL landscape has delivered a massive boost for football in NSW and Buszard said the club was acutely aware of the importance of fostering home grown talent.

"As part of our club's DNA we believe it is essential to have regional New South Wales represented on our list," Buszard said.

"To be successful as a club we need to capture the hearts and minds of people from locations such as Broken Hill and we can provide youngsters with opportunities that may not have been available in the past," he added.

"By placing prospects like Mitch into an elite program from an early age it allows us to expose them to the next level and help fast-track their development as players."

As part of their "sell", the Giants are looking to bring head coach Kevin Sheedy and other high profile GWS team members to Broken Hill in the near future.

In the meantime, Mitch Henderson intends to keep training hard and hopefully help South to the Under-16 premiership this year.

"We were knocked out in the semi-finals in the Under-14 comp last year, so hopefully we can improve this season," he said.

"It's also important for me to keep up with school work as well because I want to be an electrician and I have to plan for life outside of footy."

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