WHEN Scott West was flying through Penleigh Essendon Grammar School on his way to AFL stardom, there was another kid in the school team who stood out.
Long arms, rangy physique, red hair.
His name was Dustin Fletcher.
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The pair went on to play a combined 724 AFL matches, 16 times meeting at the top level after two years of school footy together.
Fast forward 26 years and West is seeing double.
Just like that 1992 school team, the combination of West and Fletcher is at it again, this time for under-18 TAC Cup team Calder Cannons.
And in 12 months’ time, Western Bulldogs and Essendon clashes could take on new meaning for two of football’s most famous families, sons Rhylee West and Mason Fletcher in line to be drafted as father-son selections.
“If you walked into a game of footy and you said Dustin Fletcher’s kid was playing, it wouldn’t take you long to work out which one he was,” Scott told the AFL Record this week.
“He’s his dad, just a bit younger. People might say that about Rhylee (and me), the way he runs.”
Rhylee is already making recruiters stand up and take notice with his ferocious attack on the football.
The midfielder spent a month with the Bulldogs over summer honing his craft before a trip to the United States with the AFL Academy under coach Luke Power.
By November, he will have spent time with the Academy, played with the Cannons, school football with St Kevin’s and represented Vic Metro before potentially having his name read out by the Dogs.
“There’s a lot of different voices, a lot of different commitments,” Scott said.
“Having so much scrutiny on these kids who are trying to balance their lives, grow up, get their licence, do Year 12 and try to play good footy, it can be overwhelming, even as parents.”
At 199cm, Mason is already taller than his famous father and shows no sign of slowing down.
There's no mistaking Mason Fletcher's family connection. Picture: AFL Photos
He’s added three centimetres in the past 12 months and was last year added to the Vic Metro squad as a bottom-age defender.
Should the Dogs and Bombers select the duo before rival clubs in this year’s NAB AFL Draft, it would continue a long-running history of family connections.
Dustin joined the Bombers after his father – and school coach – Ken played 264 games, while names such as Watson, Long and Daniher have carried on the tradition at Bomberland.
Meanwhile, West would love to see Rhylee follow in the footsteps of sons of his teammates Mark Hunter (Lachie), Tony Liberatore (Tom) and Stephen Wallis (Mitch).
“To see him wear the red, white and blue would be just an amazing thing,” Scott said.
“If he gets there, it would be an absolute bonus. I’d love him to play at the Bulldogs, but he just wants to get drafted.”
It might not stop there. Liberatore’s son Oliver is in the Cannons squad and eligible for next year’s draft while Max Fletcher is making waves in the under-16 team.
And the Wests could be controlling the Bulldogs midfield in years to come. Twins Cooper and Cobi will turn 15 this year, while youngest son Levi will be 10.
The similarities between Rhylee West and father Scott are also obvious. Picture: AFL Photos