Issac Heeney, Michael Dickson and Tom Trbojevic were all in the same Sydney Swans draft class only six years ago.
One of them is lighting up the AFL with his high flying marking and bright blonde hair, one has become a cult hero in Seattle with a Pro-Bowl appearance in the NFL and one is the new NSW Blues hero from Sunday’s Origin game… but imagine them all lining up for the Sydney Swans.
While everyone is dreaming of this hypothetical situation, the Swans are consistently living a nightmare. Despite having access to their academy and that bringing them Heeney and Mills in recent years, the Swans have contacted the AFL to stop future footballing prodigies being snatched by NRL clubs.
Trbojevic, at 16, was a multi-sport phenom who was snatched away from the Swans due to them not being able to offer a contract until he was 18. By this time he was already at Manly, who had got him around 18 months prior.
Swans Academy General Manager Chris Smith had more than a few anguishing moments watching Trbojevic light it up in Perth on Sunday, as well as a sense of pride.
“We’ve got to wait until the year they are turning 18. That’s when we can make some decisions at the draft. Prior to that, we’ve got our hands tied,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
“In Tom’s case he was 16 going on 17 and Manly were hotly after him and [we had to] sit down and through gritted teeth say ‘OK, you’re best to take it because we can’t guarantee anything until another year or two.
“[The NRL] have an under 15’s program where they start to get their better talent on contracts and that’s the situation we are faced with.
“I think if there were any incentives the AFL could provide in order to entice these kids and lock them in a little bit earlier it would be beneficial.”
Trbojevic, who represents the Sea Eagles, Blues and Kangaroos, demonstrates a high-level of athleticism and speed for a 6 foot 4, 100 kg monster – and seeing this as a key forward or defender Smith believes would’ve lit up the AFL fields too.
“The boy could outbody, outmuscle and outsprint the forwards and then provide some rebound and dash from the backline. But equally, you could see him being a hard-leading forward.”
Trbojevic is locked in as potential million-dollar man due to his recent heroics and form but the question of what could’ve been for Swans staff and Academy coaches still remains as the one who could’ve been.