Rising to the Challenge
The National Championships pits the best young footballing talent in the country against each other.
It was formally an event lasting a week. Now it’s stretched over a couple of months.
The change in format has its advantages including giving injured players a chance to play a part. But the alteration also means the pressure is prolonged.
Aaron Francis entered this year’s Championships as one of the top rated young players in the country.
Those that know him best say he took the extra scrutiny in his stride.
“He seemed to cope really well with that,” West Adelaide Football Manager, Andrew Marks said.
“That seemed to be when all the talk and hype came about. But when he was playing league footy with us, he was just one of the boys.”
Francis played six senior games for the premiership winning West Adelaide in the SANFL this year.
He had been in the Bloods program since his early teens.
“It was really obvious that Aaron was a very special player, particularly with his marking,” Marks said.
“His first senior game was a trial match against Glenelg on a Friday night and that was one of the best debuts I’ve seen from anybody.
“His marking was so impressive but it was his willingness to take the game on.
“Instead of taking the mark and just going back and looking for something, he was playing on straight away.
“When he’s up and about and confident he takes the game on really well.”
At 191 centimetres and 92 kilograms, Francis has the size to make an immediate impression.
Marks isn’t sure how many AFL games Francis will play in 2016, but he knows Francis has always been able to rise to the challenge.
“Whatever level of football Aaron has played, he’s always played to a really good standard,” Marks said.
“He’ll make mistakes, as he did with our side at times this year, but he’ll make the most of his opportunity and stand up to whoever he’s playing against."