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From South Clare to St Kilda: Rising Star's journey

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Adelaide teenager Luke Dunstan’s debut AFL Rising Star nomination for round one shows Henley High School is fast becoming one of the top AFL nurseries in the nation.

In his first outing for St Kilda after being recruited in last November’s draft, Dunstan starred with 21 disposals, nine clearances and seven tackles on Saturday night in the Saints 17-point win over Melbourne.

“Luke Dunstan is going to be a really good player for a long time at this football club,” Saints coach Alan Richardson said.

“To play such an important role in our midfield in his first AFL game is testament to his ability.”

Luke Dunstan was a member of the Henley High School football program under Paul Whaley, which has produced a raft of AFL young guns including Crow Brodie Smith, Port Adelaide’s Jared Polec, West Coast big man Scott Lycett and Brisbane’s Sam Mayes.   He captained the winning South Australian team in their AFL Under-18 Championships win last year and was joint winner of South Australia’s Most Valuable Player.

Dunstan was also named an Under-18 All Australian.

Luke development included time with the Croweaters state Under-16 victory under Darel Hart in 2011.

A strongly built left footer, whose pace was questioned by some recruiters, he also played league football in the SANFL last year with Woodville-West Torrens, before injury finished his season.

“He had issues with his body over the past two years, but he’s got good at preparing himself,” Shane Grimm the Eagles Talent Manager said.

“(He’s) Lived the life of an AFL footballer of an 18 months with his preparation.

“Luke was seen as a plodder, but he’s played will injury a lot.

“What he does well, he does really well and he works hard on his deficiencies.

“We also need to remember he’s still a teenager.”

Luke’s journey into the AFL started in the bush where he played junior football with the South Clare Football Club.

The young star was called in by St Kilda coaches yesterday to receive news of his Rising Star nomination – but thought he was in strife.

While the mood at the club was buoyant after the win, Dunstan wasn’t sure whether his summons to meet with the coaches on Monday morning was a good or bad sign.

“I got a phone call from the footy manager Chris Pelchen and I didn’t know if I was in trouble or what I’d done,” Dunstan told the club’s website.

“I went in and ‘Richo’ (coach Alan Richardson) and all of the coaches were in a room and he told me I’d got the nomination.

“I honestly hadn’t even thought about it so it was a nice surprise.”

Luke said part of his game has stepped up under some regular tutelage from champion St Kilda midfielder Lenny Hayes.

St Kilda has a ‘buddy system’ in place, with Hayes assigned to Dunstan, watching playing vision together, reviewing games and helping him transition into an AFL career.

“He’s been massive for me so far. We’ve worked together closely for the last three months,” Dunstan said.

“We go through vision together, we normally do all our extras before and after training together, and during the meetings we talk and have one-on-one chats. We’ve also been out for dinner a couple of times.

“He’s an absolute ripper and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

It’s been a good week for Henley High – former student Jay Weatherill secured another term as Premier of the state.

 

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