Pioneers to Tour States
Bendigo Pioneers Kick on to US Tour - by Nathan Dole
BENDIGO Pioneers team-mates Tommy Cole and Aidyn Johnson are set to kick on in the United States.
The talented Aussie Rules players will leave on Saturday for a 10-day training camp at the IMG Academy in Florida.
Cole and Johnson will join 33 players ranked among the best under-18 players in the country for the NAB AFL Academy level two squad's tour.
A major goal of the tour is to gain an insight into the professionalism required to make it and succeed at AFL level.
"The US tour will be great in learning more about the professional nature of the sport and what it's like being in an AFL club full-time," Cole said on Thursday.
The AFL Academy level two squad will train across six-seven days and also have the opportunity to watch NBA teams Orlando and Oklahoma do battle.
Graduates of the IMG Academy include tennis champion Maria Sharapova.
Their build-up for the tour has included this week's training sessions at AFL clubs.
Cole, who played for Sandhurst in last September's senior grand final in the Bendigo Football Netball League, was at Geelong Football Club.
Johnson's at Carlton this week.
A student at Scotch College, Johnson is from Echuca.
Earlier in summer, Cole trained at Carlton.
"The intensity at training is incredible," Cole said of workouts with the Blues and Cats squads.
"Every player gives 100 per cent effort. There is maxiumum effort in every drill."
Cole said the workouts with the AFL clubs and AFL Academy had led to a marked lift in his fitness and skills.
Some of the areas he has worked hard to improve leading into another season in the AFL TAC Cup under-18 competition are pace, kicking under pressure, and marking.
It's a new era at the Pioneers where Brett Henderson is the new head coach.
The skilful Cole and Johnson will play a key role in the coaches plans.
Cole's run and creativity off half-back or through midfield was to the fore many times for the Pioneers and in matches for Victoria Country at the national under-18 titles.
"David Newett (Pioneers coach the previous three seasons) always encouraged me to run and create, and take the game on," Cole said.
All 35 players in the AFL Academy's level two under-18 squad are eligible for this year's national draft.
The Level Two squad is coached by Western Bulldogs champion and AFL Hall of Fame inductee Brad Johnson.
AFL National and International Talent Manager Kevin Sheehan said the high performance camp would help prepare players for the rigors of an AFL career.
“This international tour provides our Academy players with the opportunity to experience the nuances of travel and adjusting to the environmental issues of training professionally, in different venues and on varying surfaces from a variety of sports coaches,” he said.
In 2014 there were 207 graduates of the NAB AFL Academy on AFL lists.