GWV Rebels top-ager Aiden Domic is a fine example of how AFL Victoria’s talent programs can help young indigenous people rise to the top levels of Victorian under-age football.
17-year-old Domic participated in the Kickstart program for indigenous under-15 players before being selected in the Flying Boomerangs indigenous representative team for the 2014 NAB AFL U16 Championships. Last year he was also part of the bottom-age cohort in the Laguntas indigenous youth development program.
After playing 11 games for the Rebels in 2016 – including their two finals – Domic has appeared in all nine matches for the club in 2017, impressing enough as a skilful and hard-running 185cm utility to be selected in the initial 65-player Vic Country squad for the upcoming AFL U18 Championships.
The Mount Clear and East Point junior missed out on making the reduced 41-player Country squad announced last week, but in the lead-up to the recent AFL Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round, AFL Victoria Diversity Talent Manager Chris Johnson suggested the dedication he’s witnessed Domic show to his football would hold him in good stead.
“Aiden’s been a talented player for a long time, but I think through those AFL Victoria programs he’s been able to get more of an idea about what it takes to play at a high level of football,” Johnson said.
“He’s been committed to our programs for a long time and I think his journey to regular TAC Cup football is a very good example of an indigenous boy getting an opportunity after coming through our pathway.
“To get to these programs you’ve got to get to Melbourne and I know on a number of occasions he’s had to catch public transport to get down to Melbourne to be a part of programs. We had an induction night for the Flying Boomerangs one year and Aiden and his mother and grandmother all caught the train down from country Victoria just to be there for the 45-minute presentation.
“If you’re going beyond what you’re supposed to be doing, I think that goes a long way when people sit at the selection table and start talking about which players have done everything possible to earn a game.”
Dedication off the field isn’t the only reason why GWV Talent Manager Phil Partington says Domic has generated interest from AFL recruiters.
Capable of cutting through the opposition with his foot skills running out of defence or through the midfield, Domic is averaging 20 disposals (15 kicks) and five marks per game in 2017, also booting six goals.
“Aiden’s a player AFL clubs really like not just because of his skill assets but also his endurance base,” Partington said earlier this year. “He’s a hard-running midfielder who uses the ball very well but also has a very high work rate. He played 11 games for us last year as a half back flanker/winger but he’ll go on-ball this year.”
Domic has approached the shift to becoming more of an inside midfielder as a “good challenge”. He said Rebels head coach Gerard FitzGerald had been keen to see him expand on his existing strengths.
“My endurance would probably be my main strength, as well as reading the play – that comes with the endurance side of things,” Domic said earlier this year. “I can read the play, push over to the contest and be there earlier compared to some other players.
“Last year I mainly played on the wing and off the back flank, but I’m keen to play a bit more inside the contest this year.
“It’s a big statement, but I’d like to base my game around (Fremantle’s) Nat Fyfe as an inside player. I’d also like to have the spread of (Geelong’s) Patrick Dangerfield and the backwards running of (Sydney’s) Dan Hannebery. I want to be a player that can spread hard from the contest forward and just as hard back.”
Domic was happy to be able to appear in two TAC Cup finals in 2016, particularly given he missed the start of the season after catching pneumonia upon returning from a school trip to Ireland with St Patrick’s College.
He played two games in Rounds 6 and 7 before being dropped for two weeks – “I wasn’t really all that fit, I don’t think” – but rebounded to cement his spot in the side from Round 10 onwards.
Now, Domic wants to impart the resilience and dedication he’s developed over his years in the talented player pathway to others.
“I’d like to improve my all-round leadership,” Domic said.
“Last year I was a bit quiet, but I’d like to come out of my shell a bit this year and be more vocal and help the younger boys do what they need to in progressing from grassroots level into the TAC Cup system.”