THE NAB AFL Draft represented a proud moment for Rowville Secondary College last week, as the public school in Melbourne's south-east celebrated four of its graduates finding a home at AFL level.
Connor MacDonald was drafted to Hawthorn with pick No.26, Tyler Sonsie was recruited to Richmond with pick No.28, Jake Soligo went to Adelaide at pick No.36, while Flynn Kroeger was selected by Geelong with pick No.48 across the draft's two nights.
It represented a landmark occasion for the school's dedicated Rowville Sports Academy, which has been running for the best part of the last decade and features a full-time integrated program for eight different sports.
WHO DID YOU PICK? Every club’s selection for the 2021 NAB AFL Draft
Dual premiership player and 238-game Essendon great Darren Bewick is the school's director of Aussie Rules coaching, working with students for 10 hours per week between Years 7-10.
Sonsie spent his entire schooling in the program, while Soligo started in Year 8 and Kroeger in Year 10. MacDonald joined the program in Year 7, before leaving for private school Haileybury in Year 10.
As reported by AFL.com.au, Tyreece Leiu has also been invited to train at Carlton this summer in the hopes of winning a pre-season Supplemental Selection Period spot. Should he be recruited, he would be the fifth Rowville Sports Academy product chosen this year.
The school also saw former graduate Bigoa Nyuon head to an AFL club (initially recruited to Richmond with pick No.54 in the 2019 national draft, re-selected by the Tigers in last Friday's rookie draft) and thinks this year's success will provide the program with a significant boost.
"It's a great thing for the program," Bewick told AFL.com.au.
"It's a great motivation for the kids who are currently here, to know that they're on the right track and it gives them something to strive for. We're really proud of what we've been able to achieve and really proud of what the boys were able to do.
"We've been going for about eight years now and the quality keeps getting better. We have boys and girls in the program and we're very hopeful that we'll get our first girl drafted in next year's AFLW draft as well.
"We've got a lot of kids in talent pathway programs in the NAB League and we complement what they do there. We work in conjunction with their region to make sure they're well managed.
"But here it's just fundamentals. It's skill execution, game understanding and game sense, then we start putting in craft. We think what they do here, they can put into any program they go into."