Originally written by CODY WINNELL
FORMER Heywood footballer Justin Perkins realised a dream on Tuesday by being drafted onto the Kangaroos’ rookie list in the Australian Football League.
Perkins, 21, has endured a long road since making his debut with the North Ballarat Rebels back in 1999.
It is one that has taken him from Victoria to Western Australia and now back to Victoria, where he will be hoping to get a senior game with one of Melbourne’s most traditional football clubs during the next couple of seasons.
Perkins admitted that being patient hadn’t been easy over the past couple of years but said he never once lost sight of his major goal, and now he’s ready to reap the rewards.
“I’m stoked, it’s sometihng I’ve been aiming at for a long time now.”
The long-time Collingwood supporter had nominated for three drafts since his Rebels’ days, but knew this was his best chance to be selected after receiving constant interest from the Kangaroos since his regular season finished with the Perth Football Club in the WAFL.
“They’ve been in contact with me for a while now, orgininally there was a chance I’d be picked up in the National Draft, but that fell through, now I’ve been selected in the pre-season draft, I couldn’t be happier.”
As a 17-year-old Perkins stood out for the Rebels and attended the AFL draft camp.
However, he didn’t receive much interest from AFL clubs at that stage.
As an 18-year-old again he didn’t receive much interest despite winning the Rebels’ best and fairest honour.
Perkins then spent two seasons with the North Ballarat Roosters in the VFL where he constantly battled foot injury, possibly playing a role in him not being drafted at that point.
He then travelled to Perth to further his education through university where he’s currently got one more year to go in his Bachelor of Physical Education course.
Football continued to be his number one passion while in WA, having a consistent season with Perth.
“I think I had a pretty good year, it was fairly consistent.
“The games against South Fremantle and one against West Perth were probably the two that stood out in my mind as the best.
“Against West Perth I played on the Longmuir brothers and had an alright game.”
The Kangaroos Football Club said on its website after Tuesday’s draft that Perkins grabbed their attention after he represented Vic Country in the 2001 National Under-18 Football Carnival, where he played on Graham Polak, the Roos described Perkins’ performance as “eye catching”.
Perkins said being patient got tougher and tougher as time went on but made mention of being disappointed as an 18-year-old that he didn’t get drafted after such a strong season with the Rebels.
“That was disappointing but like I said before I never lost sight of the bigger picture.”
However, it’s not the end for the talented young key position player.
There has been interest in Herring from both Williamstown and Sandringham in the VFL, while a couple of SANFL clubs have also registered their interest in the talented youngster.
VCFL development manager Jock Whiting explained that Herring can take great heart in Perkins getting drafted as he was in a similar position to Herring as an 18-year-old.
“Justin had just won the best and fairest and he wasn’t given a rookie listing, but he still got his opportunity down the track, it just means taking a different path into the AFL.”
Whiting explained that Herring was a “motivated young man and a clear thinker”, and said his footy would marry in with his study decisions that he has to make after VCE.
“He’s just finished his VCE so he’ll have a look around at the different football options he’s got, while also working out exactly what studies he wants to do.
“His ultimate goal is to play AFL footy so hopefully one day he wil get rewarded and have his chance.”