Since 2001, only three Barossa Light and Gawler football exports have secured All Australian Under 18 honours.
At the completion of the 2018 National Youth championships last week, Tanunda footballer Jez McLennan added his name to this industrious list.
After the fourth game national titles, where South Australia collected a championship triumph in emphatic style, six South Australian talents – including the Central District pair of McLennan and Trinity College student Jackson Hately – we're honoured in this way.
McLennan follows current West Coast Eagles captain Shannon Hurn (2005) and 2012 SANFL Magarey Medalist Brad Symes (2003) has the only three players to come from BLG football to receive this honour.
“A big strength across our entire group was team unity,” McLennan told Barossa Herald.
“The squad had such a hunger to win the tournament and do this state proud.
“I also felt being a part of the leadership group certainly helped my growth during the tournament.
“I received a lot of support and Darren Reeves has been an excellent mentor over the past two years.”
Currently studying year 12 at Nuriootpa High School, McLennan was born in Renmark and bred in the Barossa.
He is a Brisbane Lions supporter and was a big fan of Simon Black and Michael Voss in the day.
McLennan plays his junior football at the Magpies and moved into the Central Districts junior program in 2015.
He was also a member of the state under 16s title winning side of 2016 and this year has been playing senior football at reserves level for the Bulldogs.
He participated in the 2017 SA state Futures game in Perth, and across the three years hasn’t played in a losing game wearing SA’s Red, Gold and Blue jumper.
“My ambition is to now play league football for Centrals this year,” McLennan explained.
“Firstly it’s about play consistently in the reserves, ” he said.
McLennan played all for games across the championships, dominating as a incept marking key defender as did Hately, who has being playing SANFL league football since round one of the 2018 campaign.
Versatile Eudunda-Robertstown talent Aaron Nietschke played the first game against Western Australia and both the fixtures in Geelong and at Etihad Stadium.
Both Hately and McLennan are seen as serious top 25 AFL draft selections later this year.
Meanwhile, Nietschke has bolted into contention as well after an ultra-consistent 2018 campaign at all levels.
Since the Youth championships changes from Teal Cup (Under17s) to the current Under 18s format in 1996, SA has won three titles, the back-to-back wins in 2013 and 2014 along with this year.