LAST week members of the NAB AFL Academy embarked on an eye-opening trip to Darwin and the Tiwi Islands.
A squad of 25 of Australia's most talented young footballers spent a week in the Top End where they trained in a full-time environment under the watchful eye of AFL Academy coach Luke Power and utilised the facilities at the Michael Long Learning and Leadership Centre in Darwin.
The players also found themselves immersed in Aboriginal culture after a five-hour boat ride out to the Tiwi Islands, the birthplace of star Hawk Cyril Rioli and several other famous footballers.
"The boys loved it," Power told AFL.com.au.
"The trip included a tour of the island and we had a look at a few local Tiwi dances with a bit of a ceremony and then we went to a school and we had 100 Auskick balls to hand out to the kids which was terrific.
"Once the balls came out they came from everywhere, they just love their AFL."
South Australians Jack Lukosius and Izak Rankine and Victorian Sam Walsh were some of the standouts on the camp and lead what is considered a bumper 2018 NAB AFL Draft crop.
Vic Metro twins Ben and Max King and West Australian Ian Hill are also among the top prospects in next year's draft.
The Academy players were fortunate to be under the tutelage of North Melbourne greats Brent Harvey, an assistant coach under Power, and Drew Petrie, who joined the camp in Darwin.
Not surprisingly, Harvey worked with the smalls and Petrie, who retired at the end of this season following a year playing with West Coast, coached the tall players in the group.
"The boys are very keen to grow their football and learn from these guys," Power said.
"The important thing is these guys are only too happy to spend time with them and to me that's important that our coaches want to spend time with the players."
Power said there were a multitude of benefits behind the camp to Darwin.
"Obviously the cultural experience at the Tiwi Islands and getting the players out of their comfort zones and exposing them to a different culture, is one of the main factors," Power said.
"There was also the heat aspect. A lot of AFL clubs are turning towards heat training to put a bit of extra stress on the body and make sure that players can acclimatise to different conditions.
"Getting the best players at that age around the country to come together for training session certainly lifts the standards."
The players will travel to Florida in the United States for another high performance camp at the renowned ING Academy in January.
2018 NAB AFL Academy
Northern Territory: Matt Green (Sporties Spitfires), Michael Mummery (Nightcliff)
NSW/ACT: Nick Blakey (Swans Academy), Matthew Walker (Giants Academy)
Queensland: Bailey Scott (Suns Academy)
South Australia: Jackson Hately (Central District), Jack Lukosius (Woodville – West Torrens), Hugo Munn (Sturt), Izak Rankine (West Adelaide), Connor Rozee (North Adelaide), Luke Valente (Norwood)
Tasmania: Chayce Jones (Launceston), Tarryn Thomas (North Launceston)
Vic Country: Zane Barzen (Murray Bushrangers), Riley Bowman (Dandenong Stingrays), Jye Caldwell (Bendigo Pioneers), Sam Fletcher (Dandenong Stingrays), Hudson Garoni (Murray Bushrangers), Edward McHenry (Geelong Falcons), Sam Walsh (Geelong Falcons), Bailey Williams (Dandenong Stingrays)
Vic Metro: Jack Bytel (Calder Cannons), Buku Khamis (Western Jets), Ben King (Sandringham Dragons), Max King (Sandringham Dragons), Isaac Quaynor (Oakleigh Chargers), Bailey Smith (Sandringham Dragons), Curtis Taylor (Calder Cannons), Rhylee West (Calder Cannons)
Western Australia: Jason Carter (Claremont), Tom Joyce (East Fremantle) Ian Hill (Perth)