AFL greats are heading to country footy leagues across Victoria as part of The Carlton Draft, a campaign to help revitalise local footy in 2022.
After a difficult couple of years for local community sport, eight clubs were recently selected to participate in the inaugural draft, a boost for the community when the star draftees lace up their boots.
The Carlton Draft will help local clubs get back on their feet after the toughest period in recent memory, bringing together Victorian communities and encouraging them to come to support local footy.
Headlined by Draft Commissioner Jonathan Brown, each club selected their AFL great on a special FOX Footy broadcast ahead of the one-off games to be held in coming weeks.
The first selection in The Carlton Draft saw Portarlington Football Netball Club select recently-retired Demon Nathan Jones, a game which will see him don the same red and blue colours he wore in his 15 years at Melbourne and throughout his junior career.
Next, legendary goal sneak Eddie Betts headed to Branxholme Wallacedale Football Club in the South West District Football Netball League.
Three-time premiership hero Cameron Mooney was third and will play a game for Longwood Football Netball Club, a club in much need of a prized goalkicker after a tough couple of seasons in front of the big sticks.
Recently-retired Hawk Shaun Burgoyne will swap the brown and gold for black and white when he heads to Dalyston Football Netball Club.
Former Gippsland Power draftee-turned Hawthorn superstar Jarryd Roughead will head back to Gippsland to play for Gormandale Football Netball Club, just an hour down the road from where he grew up in Inverloch.
Slipping through the cracks, the night’s biggest surprise saw Campbells Creek Football Netball Club select five-time All Australian Alex Rance with the sixth selection.
North Wangaratta Football Netball Club held the seventh selection and selected two-time All Australian Brendon Goddard.
2010 AFL premiership player Dale Thomas was the final selection of the night and will head up the Western Highway and play for the Nhill & Sporting District Tigers.
Jones said: “I have worn the beloved red and blue since I was nine. I played my junior footy for the Dees, I played 300 plus games for Melbourne and to be drafted by the Portarlington Demons for my first game after retiring is something special.
“There is a bit of pressure after being selected with the first pick and it was shock when my name was read out. I can’t wait to play and give the local community a much-needed boost.”
Carlton & United Breweries CEO Danny Celoni said: “After the challenges of the pandemic we wanted to help bring back the crowds and some extra passion to local Victorian footy, which forms the backbone of many communities across the state.
“Carlton Draught, along with our Victorian bottle shop and pub partners, value our long-standing association with grassroots footy. That’s why Carlton Draught has supported it for generations and plans to keep doing so for many more.”