The AFL has made its first approach to teen dual-sports sensation Will Sutherland, holding talks with the schoolboy who recruiters believe could be taken as high as the top 10 in this year’s national draft.
And in the latest intriguing turn, Sutherland, who is the captain of the under-19 Australian cricket team, was due to meet with Cricket Victoria officials this week but cancelled due to school commitments.
It comes after Sutherland and his mother Heidi were approached by the AFL, with league representatives providing information regarding programs and pathways into the professional football.
The AFL development team reiterated to Sutherland that a place in the upcoming under-18 championships would not be put in jeopardy should he choose, as expected, not to play TAC Cup football. Either way, the league remains hopeful that the VCE student will represent Vic Metro in championships next month.
Not only is Sutherland’s father, James, the most senior cricket official in the country, but his mother is now a director on the board of AFL Victoria.
AFL Football operations boss Simon Lethlean and general counsel Andrew Dillon are also directors with AFL Victoria.
Despite having to reschedule the meeting to talk to Sutherland, Cricket Victoria remain committed to convincing him to stick with the bat and ball.
“We certainly believe he is a player who could play for Victoria for many years, and very possibly higher,” Victorian chairman of selectors Andrew Lynch told Fairfax Media.
“We want him and it sounds like footy wants him.”
Sutherland, a student at the prestigious private boys’ school Scotch College, is not only gifted at football and cricket, he is also highly academic, similar to his father and grandfather Ivan.
The AFL was clear to Sutherland that there is no pressure on him to make a decision soon, and it respected the fact he was keen to concentrate on his studies.
Sutherland was again listed in Scotch College’s best players after being tagged in their win over Geelong College on Saturday, a week after being best afield in their loss to Xavier College.
With Sutherland to decide in the coming months which sport he wants to pursue professionally, the situation can be likened to that of Pat McKenna in 2014.
Two months after leading the Australian under-19 cricket side to victory over Sri Lanka – as Sutherland has just achieved – McKenna nominated for the draft and was taken by Greater Western Sydney.
After failing to play a senior game in his two seasons in Sydney, he was traded to Melbourne in last year’s trade period and signed a two-year contract.
Sutherland is a key position size in football and can play in the midfield. Recruiters who have watched his two matches at school level have been impressed not only with his size and pace, but his extremely competitive nature. In cricket, he is a middle-order batsman who bowls first-change.