South Burnett boys proud to pull on maroon
FOR all footy loving kids playing in the AFL is a dream, and for two South Burnett boys playing on the national stage is within reach.
Representing Queensland this season is proving to be the perfect motivation and preparation for James Packer and Shaun Pukallus.
"It is very close for us both, possibly next year or the year after, we could be in the AFL teams. It is so close but yet so far," James said.
It is the first time Shaun has been selected for the state side and he is grateful his hard work has paid off.
"It was a big relief for me when I found out I got into the team because I have never made it this far before," he said.
Shaun credits the high intensity training as part of the Brisbane Lions academy for his progression in the sport this season.
"My ability to follow the ball around has improved, because long distance running is normally not a strong point for me, but ever since I have been in the academy that is what I have been working on to get better," he said.
Without a competitive junior program in the South Burnett for the boys, they play for Brisbane's Aspley Hornets with whom they won the U16 division one premiership with last season.
James has also had the chance this season to play with the South Burnett Saints men in the AFL Darling Downs competition.
Their commitment means they make the three hour trip to Brisbane once a week while also taking part in individual training sessions in Kingaroy and kicking a footy with the Saints men's side.
The boys pulled on maroon guernseys for Queensland's U16 team against NSW in Sydney on June 23 and while they went down by 11 points they are better players for the experience.
"It was a bit nerve wracking going into the game but once you are out there and start to get a feel for the ground and the ball it just comes naturally and played our game," James said.
The journey to their selection started in November with an AFL X game before competing for a spot in the Lions academy and then coming up against the Gold Coast Suns academy side for selection in the state team.
Shaun will now step up and play for the Queensland U17 side on Monday while James will take part in a week long camp at the Gold Coast with the U16 side before playing two more national championship games for Queensland.
"In previous years I have felt like training was just a muck around but since November it has been eye-opener of how it helps you towards a football game," James said.
The focus of the training has been working at game day intensity with hard gut running which is key to success in football according to James.
"If you can run all day it is the other little things that you need to work on. If you can run all day everything else comes easier, it is just a running sport," he said.