History will be made in the clash between St Kilda and Geelong, as we will see Jason Holmes make his debut as the first category B rookie from America. Holmes will take the place of Billy Longer in the ruck for his first game of senior football.
The Jason Holmes story hasn’t all been smooth sailing – at the start of 2013 no one would have heard of him. He is a former college basketballer from Morehead State University in Kentucky, who averaged a mediocre 2.7 points and 1.8 rebounds a game from 10 minutes of game time. You could see why he would rather take a chance at playing sport at an elite level or playing basketball at a minor level barely getting any game time.
In April 2013 he got an invite to an AFL combine in Los Angeles where he could show off his athletic attributes. He jumped an outstanding 88 cm in the running vertical leap and showed enough with the ball in hand. His athleticism could have been expected, as the son of former NBA player Kevin Holmes and brother of Oakland Raiders wide receiver Andre Holmes. On November 27, with pick 36 in the rookie draft, St Kilda selected him as a rookie.
In his first year at the club he struggled with the skills of the game. Saints captain Nick Riewoldt described watching Holmes train in the early days as “comedic”. This didn’t deter him from his goal of playing football and in April 2014 he made his VFL debut, gathering seven disposals and 32 hit outs in his first competitive game of football. This form continued to improve, being named in the best five times in his first season.
This year he has taken his game to a whole new level. This was on full display in the NAB Challenge, kicking an amazing goal against the Bombers. This year he has become arguably the best VFL ruckman, averaging 7.5 disposals, 2.9 tackles and 29.4 hitouts agame. It’s these numbers that have earned him his first AFL senior game.
This achievement is an amazing effort by Holmes and the implications of his form, as well as the form of Eric Wallace at North Melbourne and Mason Cox at Collingwood, could change the game for Americans coming into the system. This milestone for AFL football will give Americans more opportunities and might inspire more athletes to give this sport a shot. This year we saw 205-centimetre Matt Korchek and 201-centimetre Jalen Carethers dominate the speed tests running 3.03 and 2.79 seconds respectively. If Holmes can succeed in the AFL, we could see more and more athletes come and add talent to our great game.