The head of Greater Western Sydney Giants academy program says there'll be plenty of opportunity for Riverina players to impress next year after the region again didn't feature among this year's crop of AFL draftees.
Cam Bernasconi conceded it was tough for southern NSW talent but believes that was a result of an unprecedented 2020 as much as anything else.
"It was obviously a disappointing year for southern NSW talent but it wasn't overly expected that the region would have players drafted this year, with the lack of content provided and the lack of opportunities for players during the year,' Bernasconi said.
"There was only a small number of players drafted from NSW this year. It's one of those things."
Only three NSW/ACT products were taken in Wednesday night's AFL Draft. The Sydney Swans took two of their academy players, Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden. Canberra's Tom Highmore, a former Giants academy player, went to St Kilda as a mature age player after a season in the SANFL.
Locally, The Rock-Yerong Creek ruckman Jack Driscoll, and Ganmain-Grong Grong-Matong young gun Matt Hamblin were considered the Riverina's best hopes.
But in a year of tightened AFL lists and without the representative opportunities to put themselves in the shop window for recruiters, expectations weren't especially high. And Bernasconi is confident 2021 holds promise.
"With the NAB League going to under 19s I think these kids will get an opportunity next year," he said.
"Our under 19s will join the NAB League as planned from this year. They'll play two academy series games against the Swans academy. From there they'll play a further 3 games in the NAB League and that's where most of the recruiters watch their footy.
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"From there they'll pick a full 'Allies' team to play in the national championships so there'll be a number of opportunities to impress.
"I think Jack Driscoll's an exciting talent. He's 200cm plus and he can run. He would've been in the Allies this year and if he keeps progressing he's certainly a big chance.
"Matt Hamblin, he's obviously had a big season playing senior footy and winning the league meal. He had a great year and hopefully he can put in some good performances for the academy team of the Allies."
At work on a chaser bin on Friday afternoon, Hamblin said he had kept his own hopes in check.
"I kind of wasn't expecting anything to happen. There weren't any AFL clubs talking to me and my name wasn't really being thrown around," Hamblin said.
"But I really enjoyed my club footy this year. I loved it. I still wouldn't mind putting my name out there again next year. I enjoyed doing the academy when I got a chance in 2019 (as an underage player, at 17).
"But with the Giants reserves moving into the VFL, if I can get a game there I think that would be a good opportunity because you're playing against the best players outside the AFL."
The Giants believe there is also plenty to like in the coming crop of players, with Bernasconi rattling off Billy Glanvill, Sam Stening and Pat Voss as players who could press for selection if they get an opportunity to impress throughout the 2021 program.
The AFL outfit is confident that the outlook can improve in coming years and said it will also be creating a an improved pathway for women's football with its girls academy.
"We're nearly going to double in size, because the plan is to mirror the girls program to the boys... the girls will have the same contest as the boys from 12 through to under 19s," Bernasconi said.
"And the girls will get some really good exposure at the top end."