Shaw kicks on

By Jamie Lowe

Will Shaw will have another crack at impressing AFL recruiters as he prepares for a shortened season with the Bendigo Pioneers in the NAB League later this year.

The AFL announced on June 16 the under 18 competition will start on Saturday, August 22, after being postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Deniliquin High School graduate played 14 of Bendigo’s 16 games in 2019, impressing coaches with his speed and endurance on the wing.

It was this effort that saw him picked for the Pioneers squad for a second year in a row.

Shaw said he is keen to get back out on the footy field later this year.

‘‘It’s good to get some news about the return to the season,’’ he said.

‘‘It was hard before the announcement as we had no real time frame of when we were going back, so motivation was difficult.

‘‘Now that the date is set it’s much easier. We have something to strive for and look forward to.

‘‘It’s been difficult this year, being on the list since all of this has happened.

‘‘Most of the (Bendigo Pioneers) staff have been stood down so all of us on the list have had to work off state wide programs, not individual ones that we are used to. 

‘‘The programs have still been enjoyable and I have developed my game, but just in different areas.’’

The season will see NAB League sides participate in a six-week season, splitting the 12 clubs into Metro and Country conferences.

They will play five rounds within the conferences and then a final between the sides in different conferences in the sixth round.

The top-placed side in each division will face-off for the premiership in the final week.

The other lower-ranked clubs will also play against a side in the opposing conference in round six, ensuring some of Australia’s leading draft hopefuls take the field in front of AFL recruiters.

The NAB League season was suspended just days before it was due to begin in March, leading to fears this year’s draft class wouldn’t get a chance to play again in 2020.

But after being given government clearances, the AFL has paved the way for players from the 12 sides in Victoria to take the field.

‘‘There’s always that dream and hope of getting drafted,’’ Shaw said.

‘‘With this break, hopefully I can play well for the games that we get to play and catch the attention of some clubs. 

‘‘It will be good to be able to get out and run around, to show all the recruiters what we have to offer and  represent the club and communities.’’

Shaw, 19, was picked to play an extra season in the under 18 competition earlier this year as part of the NAB League’s 19 year-old rule.

The rule allows an over aged player who was overlooked in the previous year’s draft to return to their NAB League club for an extra season to try and earn a spot on an AFL list.

‘‘I’m very grateful for a second chance at NAB League with the Pioneers,’’ Shaw said.

‘‘Last year they gave me a new perspective on what has to be done to reach the highest level of football you can. 

‘‘This year, after being given the second chance, I have been really able to implement what they have supplied us on and off the ground, to achieve the best I can.

‘‘I’ve missed footy massively. It hasn’t felt right on the weekends not having a game to play, or even watching a game. 

‘‘I’ve felt a bit lost trying to find other things to do.

‘‘I’ve been running most nights and mixing it up with the odd ride on the bike, as well as trying to do some circuits at home. 

‘‘The hardest bit has been the motivation.

‘‘It’s hard training by yourself to with no one to push you, but I’ve been trying to stick to the programs and achieve the goals I have been setting for myself.’’