Waiting for the AFLnod
By STEVE SPINKS firstname.lastname@example.org
BY the end of next week Lennox Head teenager Wayde Mills could be a full-time professional AFL player.
Only weeks after finishing his Higher School Certificate at Southern Cross K-12 in Ballina, Mills could be training and socialising with men he has held as childhood heroes.
This is the lot of Mills and a host of hopefuls who will be in Melbourne this Saturday when the AFL National Draft is announced.
And if the pundits prove correct, the 18-year-old centre half-back will go to the Western Bulldogs, which is coached by former Sydney Swans mentor Rodney Eade.
It will be the first time a Northern Rivers local has been entered in the draft which started in the mid-80s as a way of distributing the best up-and-coming junior talent evenly throughout the AFL clubs.
Mills' rise from relative obscurity has been well documented this season.
The youngster lived with his mother Sharlene in a caravan at Mt Gravatt for two months earlier this year to save time on travelling to Brisbane while he was part of the Queensland Under-18 team.
Mills was captain of the Queensland Under-18s who finished second in division two of the National Championships and he was subsequently named in the All-Australian side.
While preparing for his HSC and the Queensland team the 18-year-old continued to play regular senior football with the Southport Sharks in the Queensland State League.
The Sharks, with Mills dominant at the back, won the premiership in September.
But the young footballer, who was born in Albury and moved to Lennox nine years ago, couldn't celebrate too long.
Later that month he had to attend the draft camp at the Australian Institute of Sport where all hopefuls were put through a battery of testing.
Mills finished third in the 3km run, second in the vertical jump and ninth in the beep test.
Not bad for 1.95cm and 88kg athlete. Earlier this year, Mills was hopeful of being drafted by St Kilda so he could play with his beloved Saints.
While this looks increasingly unlikely, being drafted at all is a massive achievement.
From Albury, to Lennox Head, to a caravan in Mt Gravatt, Wayde Mills has shown he's ready for the AFL.
All he needs now is a club.