Laitham Vandermeer is proof a top-age year at the Murray Bushrangers can be the added boost needed to press for a spot on an AFL list.
Vandermeer returned alongside Nathalia’s Tom Boyd for another year in the system this year and was entirely dedicated to his time at the Murray Bushrangers.
In contrast to last year, while he was in Year 12, Vandermeer spent most of his weekends playing football for his school side at Xavier College.
The silky ball user said it was an enjoyable year and he was intent on ironing out any problems he saw in his own game.
‘‘It was good, I hadn’t played that much TAC Cup because I played school footy, so to play with the same boys each week (at the Bushies) was good,’’ Vandermeer said.
‘‘(My aim was) just mainly to improve my weaknesses, that was my main goal (which was) probably just my contested ball.
‘‘I maintained my strength and improved that.’’
Vandermeer’s improvements had the Mooroopna talent included in the Young Guns match that pitted the best of the TAC Cup against VFL players before being named in the coveted Victorian Country under-18 side.
He rebounded superbly off half-back in the first match of the AFL Under-18 Championships but, while the experience was beneficial to his development, an injury in the final game ended his season.
‘‘In the last game of the nationals against WA I just got a sling tackle, I don’t remember much, but I broke the collarbone,’’ Vandermeer said.
‘‘It was a surreal experience, I didn’t get the chance last year, so playing against all the best footballers helped improve my game.’’
It was the second time he had broken the collarbone after previously injuring the same one, but a different part of it in 2013.
‘‘I just tried to maintain my recovery because I’d been through it before, so I knew what to do,’’ Vandermeer said.
But he made a major impact in the first half of the season and after working full-time at Drives For Industry in Shepparton this year, Vandermeer will be eagerly listening to each AFL club’s pick.