Lions Academy members from the Gympie Cats are Hayden Tompkins and Joel Perry -Warren.
Lions Academy members from the Gympie Cats are Hayden Tompkins and Joel Perry -Warren. Craig Warhurst

Young footy Lions

WHEN cats grow up they don’t usually turn into Lions, but that’s exactly what young Gympie Cats players Joel Perry-Warren and Hayden Tompkins are hoping.

The duo have just been included in the Lions Academy - a recruitment and training program put in place by the Brisbane Lions AFL club, to foster young footy talent.

The two 12 year olds are excited about the prospect of training with elite coaches and the best players from the region.

“It’s awesome,” Tompkins said.

“It gives us a chance to train with the Brisbane Lions,” he said.

Perry-Warren said it was a great achievement and the next step in his footy career.

Perry-Warren was chosen for the academy after excelling with the Queensland side, while Tompkins’ tall 180cm frame was spotted playing at the State Championships for Wide Bay.

Gympie Cats president Glenn Warren said he thought the two boys had what it takes to play at the highest level.

“Joel is a great player who is well balanced and can play the ball on both sides of his body,” Warren said.

“He can kick with his left and right foot, and handball with his left and right hand- no worries,” he said.

Tompkins, according to Warren, is tall and getting taller, and will make a great ruckman.

“The selectors have seen a lot of potential in him,” Warren said.

“It’s his first year of footy and it’s a pretty high achievement to get selected so early.

“He will keep growing and learning the game.”

Warren said another Gympie player, Hayden Rogers, had been selected in the initial squad, but has been left out of the final cut.

“It’s only Hayden’s second year of footy and he has a good chance of getting back in, he just needs to work on a couple of things.”

The inclusion of Perry-Warren and Tompkins in the Lions Academy showed just how far the Gympie Cats have come, according to Warren. “We are striving to go forward.

“We have got good coaches teaching kids game plans, structures and all the skills involved in footy.

“It’s just not about kicking the ball around any more. It’s great Gympie kids are getting recognised,” he said.

The Brisbane Lions, together with the AFL, outlined details of the AFL Lions Academy and how it would support talented locals while on the Sunshine Coast in February.

The academies were launched in October last year and are linked to each of the four AFL clubs in NSW and QLD – the Sydney Swans, the Brisbane Lions and new expansion teams the Gold Coast Football Club and Team GWS (Greater Western Sydney).

Based on an existing partnership between the AFL and the Brisbane Lions, the new program established a satellite centre for the Academy on the Sunshine Coast. The centre will provide high level training for players from 12 years of age.

The Academy will allow the AFL to fast-track the development of 240 young athletes.

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