It may be the glorious facilities, or the large population. Or perhaps it’s just an unbelievable coincidence. Whatever it may be, Marcellin College sure does have a knack of producing gun footballers.
Someone who knows all about the Marcellin football program is 21-year-old Tom Gordon. Gordon, a Marcellin graduate, was taken by Collingwood with pick 25 in the 2010 rookie draft. As a tall utility, the Pies valued Gordon’s unique gift to play in all positions on the ground and were impressed with his supreme athletic ability.
Gordon was delisted by the club towards the end of 2011, though still has high aspirations of being re-drafted by an AFL club.
“Since being delisted from Collingwood I have had my mind set on getting back into an AFL club but I understand the realism of it happening,” Gordon said. “I think nowadays the chance for mature-age recruits is better which gives me confidence but I have a few things to work on before I really start to have an impact on the competition.”
Currently playing in the VFL with the Box Hill Hawks, Gordon has kicked nine goals from 10 games, including an eye-catching performance against Williamstown in round 12. When asked if this was his best game for the season to date, Gordon agreed: “I felt I played a pretty good game up forward. I was able to get involved quite early which was important and from that point on I really showed some aggression and an ability to kick goals.”
The transition from playing local football to AFL was one that Gordon will never forget. “To be honest I didn’t fully understand what it was like to be in the AFL system,” he told. “But I quickly found out. I wouldn’t say it was a difficult transition but one that took time to get a solid routine down.”
Gordon looks up to present AFL footballers David Zaharakis and Luke Shuey as role models, with the latter of the two having a big impact on his football career.
“I looked up to Shuey a fair bit,” he said. “During his last year at Oakleigh and Marcellin I was able to train with him and I really got to know him. We used to travel together to Oakleigh training and that was a good experience for me as well to see how he went about his footy on and off the field.”
Zaharakis and Shuey are among a whole host of names to have played AFL after coming through the Marcellin program. Leigh Montagna, Patrick Karnezis, Josh Caddy and Jack Newnes are among present AFL players to have attended Marcellin College.
A number of former AFL players have also come through the school. Past players include Gavin Brown, Peter Curran, Paul Dimattina, Greg Madigan, Jason Cripps, Dale Fleming and none other than one of the greatest full-backs of all time, Stephen Silvagni.
Quality football players capable of stringing AFL games together don’t grow on trees. It takes not only a hungry desire and some quality skills, but a large work ethic that is to be sustained over a long period of time.
To achieve a strong work ethic is something that often stops promising juniors into a career which is left contemplating what might have been compared to an individual with not so talented skills but a relentless training program to achieve the ultimate success. At Marcellin College, a work ethic like no other is developed out of sight.
The facilities at Marcellin offer countless days of fitness both in the gym and training aerobically. Combine these with that hungry desire and some classy skills, and your halfway there to bringing up an AFL player.
Gordon looks back on the Marcellin fitness program knowing that the opportunities provided there was one of the significant reasons Collingwood was keen to draft him in 2010. “During the pre-season ‘Vaughany’ (Mr Cleary, head of Marcellin physical education) ran a modified pre-season which really enhanced our fitness. It was both indoors and outdoors which was a good change up to traditional pre-seasons,” he said.
Asked who specifically had the most positive influence on himself, Gordon said, ” ‘Vaughany’ would have to be the one that had the biggest influence on me. He was a coach that brought the best out of me and understood how I responded to certain things.”
Whilst there are key ingredients that contribute to Marcellin’s appetite to create AFL footballers, specific training and coaching helps have a big impact on aspiring juniors and separates Marcellin from other schools.
“I think the biggest thing is Marcellin’s record of having players drafted which in turn attracts footballers with that same ambition,” Gordon said. “Also, I think the facilities at Marcellin with the indoor gym, weights room and ovals provide a great platform for players to hone their craft and become great footballers.”
He has some fond memories from his time at Marcellin. When asked which memory he treasured most, he said: “Probably the win against Assumption (College) in my last year. We lost our first game by I think 100 points and I really wasn’t sure how we would go during the season, but from that game on we went undefeated. So to be able to say we beat Assumption on our home ground in front of some old boys was something very special.”
Tall, agile utilities are hard to come by in the modern era, so Gordon’s chances of returning to the AFL remain hopeful, especially looking at clubs such as St Kilda who lack key defenders in the back half.
“I think being able to play both ends of the ground will allow me to get drafted and I’ve shown I can do that throughout this year,” he said. “To be honest it’s really what the club needs so if I’m able to play well at both ends of the ground then I will increase my chances.
Something for all AFL players to consider is the reality of having to travel interstate and often away from family. This has affected many players overtime, forcing them to move back to Melbourne. Gordon said that he believes he would cope with the possibility of moving interstate.
“To play AFL has been a dream of mine since I ever picked up a footy so if it meant I had to move to Perth to play AFL I would pack up my bags and leave straight away.”
By season 2014, there is a likely chance that yet another Marcellin boy will be making their way into the AFL. Midfielder Marcus Bontempelli is a likely top 30 draft pick and has been likened to Scott Pendlebury.