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29 November 2023
By Sean O’Connell
Former Horsham Saints footballer Joel Freijah will play for AFL club Western Bulldogs after being selected in the 2023 National Draft.
Freijah, 18, who played with the Greater Western Victoria Rebels and Vic Country last season, was drafted in round two with the Bulldogs’ pick 45.
Freijah said a friend pulling on a Bulldogs jumper two minutes before his name was read out proved to be the ‘lucky charm’.
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“I was just really grateful to hear my name called out,” he said.
“Coach Luke Beveridge called me afterwards, which was great, and a lot of the players texted as well – so the support has been awesome.
“It’s a really exciting playing group and awesome midfield in the likes of Marcus Bontempelli, Jackson Macrae and guys like that. I’m super keen and stoked to get down there and start training.”
Freijah said he would live with Bulldogs midfielder Tom Liberatore for the first four weeks as he settled into living and training in Melbourne.
He left Horsham for Melbourne on Thursday last week and started training on Friday.
On Monday, Freijah finished third in the Bulldogs’ two-kilometre time trial behind Bailey Smith and fellow draftee Ryley Sanders. Freijah said the week leading into the draft had allowed him to have some last-minute contact with clubs and prepare for the next steps in his football career.
“I had a few interviews with clubs and then relaxed in the two or three days prior to the draft, tried to switch off but keep busy to get my mind off it,” he said.
“I had my mates from the boarding house in Ballarat, my girlfriend, my cousin and mum, dad and sister watching the draft together.
“When it all happened, extended family came around – it was awesome.
“I was super grateful to spend the night with people who have been there along the journey, who I’ve grown up with and have supported me.”
Freijah said a chance to play for the Bulldogs at Mars Stadium in Ballarat, where he played numerous games with the Rebels, provided some extra incentive to work hard and earn selection into the team.
“I think they play there pretty early in the year, so I’ll hopefully try to get a game and earn their respect and play early on,” he said.
Freijah said playing his junior football at Wimmera league club Horsham Saints had provided him with some ‘special’ memories.
“It’s been awesome, starting at four or five years old in the minis and Auskick, coming up through under-12s, under-14s and under-17s and a bit of senior footy as well,” he said. “It’s a special club. I’ve really loved it and the opportunities they give all the kids to develop.
“I never won a grand final with the Saints, unfortunately, but there was a great final back in under-14s where we played the Demons, the other Horsham team, and went into an over-time final against them.
“We unfortunately lost, but playing with those boys growing up through under-12s, under-14s and under-17s was extremely special.”
Horsham Saints president Scott Bond said he ‘could not be prouder’ of the draftee, who he coached in under-12s.
He said Freijah was the latest of former Saints footballers to be drafted, including Darcy Tucker, Jarrod Berry, Tom Berry, Rene Caris and Ella Friend, who are currently on AFL lists.
Freijah said a Vic Country under-18 National Championships win against Vic Metro highlighted the spirit of playing football in country Victoria.
“It was awesome to smash them. It was probably the best game of the year and it’s something that all the boys have talked about for the remainder of the year,” he said.
“It’s a very special game and I’m very privileged to be from the country and to have played my footy there.”
Freijah said he was likely to continue playing on the wing, where he played the majority of the time during his draft season, but was open to other positions in future.
“Sometimes the role is underestimated a bit, but it has the ability to get back and help in defence and also get forward and impact on the scoreboard,” he said.
“That two-way running and aerobic capacity is extremely important in that role.
“I try and use my height as a strength to get back and intercept mark or punch and get forward, mark and kick goals.”
Freijah finished his secondary education in Ballarat this year and intends to study commerce in his second year on an AFL list.
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The entire November 29, 2023 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!