By Nick Creely
Oscar Clavarino has joined a select few of impressive names on the honour board at Shepley Oval.
The highly-touted youngster from Berwick and Haileybury College could just be the most sought-after key defender in the country come draft time in November, but possesses a quality even more important to clubs, genuine leadership.
The 17-year-old, who is now the Dandenong Stingrays co-captain alongside fellow teammate Josh Bateman, joins names such as Matt Buntine, Luke Parker, Tom Scully, Ryan Bastinac and Jack Lonie as captain, with those players all going on to forge elite careers in the AFL.
Seen as an accountable, reliable and elite one-on-one defender, Clavarino is looking forward to the chance to lead by example on and off-field, and concedes that leadership is something he has always aspired to.
“It’s an absolute honour to be selected by my teammates to lead the team alongside my co-captain Josh Bateman,” he said.
“It gives me a great sense of respect from my peers given that they have allowed me the opportunity to put my best foot forward in hopefully being able to lead the team.
“I’ve always looked to be an on-field leader ever since I was young – in my younger years I had the opportunity to captain my local footy team Berwick for four years which gave me the experience and the knowledge of the expectations of a leader.
“It gave me the view on what it takes to be a leader and the selfless nature that it taught me was priceless – I’m hoping to be a captain that my teammates can rely on to set high standards both on and off the field and enforce these standards upon the squad.
“I think it’s important as well to be a captain who doesn’t set themselves apart from others in regards to importance and can be held accountable for my actions by the team.”
It’s going to be a hectic 2017 for the boom youngster, with National Champs, TAC Cup and the National Combine set to test him both physically and mentally.
But Clavarino has already had a taste of life at the elite level with the AFL Academy, spending time with an AFL player and learning the professionalism needed to advance to that level.
“I was lucky enough to spend two weeks staying with Jack Viney and training at the Melbourne Football Club as part of the Academy’s AFL experience,” he said.
“While learning so much at the club, staying with Jack was an unreal insight into the life of an AFL footballer.”
But he is staying focused and ensuring there is balance to his life this year.
“I try not to think about it all too much,” he explained.
“My school work is a good way of keeping things in perspective – it gives me another focus so that I’m not overthinking my footy all the time.
“As it all ramps up I think the key for me will just be to focus myself on what I can control – I can control my training, my school work and most importantly the effort I put in.”
As for the Stingrays’ fortunes in 2017, Clavarino is confident his exciting team can go all the way despite sitting 1-1 after two rounds, and heaped praise on three of his teammates who could also find themselves in the AFL system next year.
“All of the boys deserve to be in the elite level, but a couple that stand out to me are Hunter Clark and Luke Davies,” he said.
“These boys have some of the best skills in the competition and are competitive beasts on the field and are great to train with.
“Another young player that I love playing alongside is Mitch Riordan.
“I play with Mitch at the Rays and with school as well and you can always count on him to compete and give 100 per cent every week.”
The Stingrays head off on a road trip to face the Greater Western Victoria Rebels in Bendigo on Saturday.