Big changes: Why Jamarra is the last No. 1 of his kind
Western Bulldogs' Next Generation Academy graduate Jamarra Ugle-Hagan was one of 2000 teenagers to benefit from their program, which the club wants to continue investing heavily in despite the AFL stripping back the draft concessions.
Coach Luke Beveridge's passionate plea for the NGA system to be expanded fell on deaf ears, with No.1 pick Ugle-Hagan among the last of his kind.
Next year clubs will be unable to match top-20 bids on academy stars, and unable to match top-40 bids in 2022.
The Bulldogs have five academy hubs servicing nearby leagues, with their region touching the South Australia border.
Each year they have inducted 500 kids aged 14-15, funneling them into the talent pathway system.
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Dogs academy coach David Newton said a key priority was to "close the gap" on the amount of games played by Indigenous and non-Indigenous footballers.
"A lot of people say, 'Well, Jamarra was always going to be the No.1 draft pick', and no one can sit back and say whether that was going to be the case or not four years ago," Newton said.
"But if you're watching and listening to Jamarra right now it's clear he's walking into the Western Bulldogs with full comfort of understanding what's required to be an AFL player.
"So we mitigate the risk of him not making it, and not playing the amount of games we'd expect a player of his talent to be able to do."
"That message has been a little bit lost,"
Newton first watched a 14-year-old Ugle-Hagan light up a Kickstart game in Blacktown in 2017 and has since forged a close bond, often driving him from Scotch College to Torquay or Ballarat for games.
The Dogs visited Ugle-Hagan at Scotch twice a week in 2017-18, before easing off because of how many programs he was enrolled in.
They would cut vision with him and, at one stage, realized the left-footer could only handball right-handed, so Newton helped upskill him on both sides.
"We collaborated with people like Marcus Drum (Scotch), Leigh Clark (Oakleigh Chargers) and Leigh Brown (Vic Country), rather than saying we want him every week, because it just would've burnt him out," Newton said.
Greater Western Victoria Rebels also played a role, and played Ugle-Hagan at centre halfback as a 16-year-old to teach him about forward pressure.
While clubs have priority access to Indigenous and multi-cultural academy prospects, Newton said the Dogs have taken "mainstream" kids, with draftees Harry Sharp (Brisbane) and Nick Stevens (Geelong) once pulling on the Dogs jumper with Ugle-Hagan.
"There's so many multi-cultural kids that have come through our program that won't be AFL players," Newton said.
"But we're providing those kids the ability to go back and not only be better footballers, but be role models among their community.
"We hope down the track there'll be more kids from diverse backgrounds that choose to play AFL and not something closer to home, like soccer or basketball.
"There's plenty of Sudanese boys (beyond Dogs rookie Buku Khamis) we continue to work with that need so much support, not only from a football sense."
Ugle-Hagan has four younger brothers back home in Framlingham and he qualified for Geelong's NGA under the old TAC Cup boundaries.
But as scary as a forward line of Jeremy Cameron, Tom Hawkins and Ugle Hagan would've been, it is a loose connection given AFL administrator Grant Williams redistributed the zones more than 10 years ago.
The Dogs are awaiting clarity from the AFL on how next year's NGA will work, but concede their "mainstream programs" are unlikely to continue.
Originally published as Big changes: Why Jamarra is the last No. 1 of his kind