Matt Sharenberg playing for South Australia during the 2012 NAB AFL Under-18 Championships
In baseball, you’ve got the ball in your hand from the start and you’re in the spotlight. With football, everyone’s trying to earn that spotlight.
IT IS not unusual to see Matt Scharenberg take control of a football game, often marking above others, pushing through opponents and playing on his terms.
However, having the attention of a sporting contest fixed his way is not necessarily a new thing for the South Australian draft hopeful.
Before he was widely viewed as one of the top prospects for this year’s draft, the versatile defender and forward played junior level baseball for Australia.
He had started the game at a young age and gradually rose from tee-ball games at primary school to represent his country.
Soon enough though, he had a choice to make. Baseball season started to overlap with football pre-seasons and Scharenberg needed to pick one sport to pursue professionally.
Although he misses baseball, he knows why he stuck with footy.
“Football is just so much more unpredictable and open,” Scharenberg told AFL.com.au while in England on the AIS-AFL Academy’s European tour.
“In baseball as a pitcher, you’ve got the ball in your hand from the start and you’re in the spotlight because you’re throwing the ball. With football, everyone’s trying to earn that spotlight.”
It is obvious Scharenberg enjoys the competitive side of the game and the chase to make that spotlight his.
In marking contests, he wrestles and fights until the ball is in his hands. He runs and takes on players, and has shown he can do it at either end, too.
He kicks well, understands the game’s rhythms and might even gain the height to become a tall midfielder.
Last Saturday, he kicked three smart goals in the AIS-AFL Academy’s win over the European Legion at Surrey Sportspark.
But he is just as comfortable defending the goals, an experience he gained last year as a member of South Australia’s under-18s team, a year before he was eligible to be drafted.
“I learned a lot through that period,” Scharenberg said. “I played on Jesse Hogan when we played Western Australia and that was a really good opportunity. He’s obviously a great player (Hogan was picked by Melbourne in the GWS mini-draft at the end of last season) and it was a good battle.”
Scharenberg continues to tick off new experiences as he heads towards the 2013 draft. One, the trip to Europe, has opened his eyes to what it might be like to be a full-time footballer.
“It’s pretty jam-packed. And then there’s the travel as well. They’re long plane flights and bus rides and that can get pretty tiring,” he said.
“Obviously I haven’t been in an AFL environment before but it’s a full-time profession, a lot of things go on, and these programs are good because they prepare you for what’s to come and give you the best chance.”
On top of everything, he is finishing school at Adelaide’s Immanuel College. The school has produced several AFL players, including Geelong premiership ruckman Brad Ottens, who is now an Academy coach.
But being busy and dividing time between the Academy, his SANFL club Glenelg and studies is not a problem for Scharenberg.
“It’s not a struggle because it’s football. I’m enjoying every minute of it,” he said.