Tom Stevens becomes a Zebra

Tom Stevens, 19 is looking forward to the chance to further develop himself as a footballer in the VFL. After receiving a call from Sandringham’s operations manager in November, the former Echuca player considered all his options before committing to the Zebras.

‘‘I had a think about it, thought it was pretty good and I went down there and had a chat with them,’’ he said.

‘‘They were good about it...and I thought it would be a good opportunity, so I decided to go there.’’

Stevens played seven senior games with the Murray Bombers last year and has represented TAC Cup side Bendigo Pioneers 19 times in the past two years.

He also played for NSW/ACT Rams at the NAB AFL Under 18 Championships last year, averaging more than 17 disposals a game off half-back, including a good effort in the Rams’ only win of the championships against Queensland.

After missing out on the draft, Stevens spoke to many state league clubs and the St Kilda-aligned club looked the best fit.

‘‘I was hoping to get somewhere in a state league, whether it was SANFL or VFL,’’ he said.

‘‘I wasn’t really thinking Sandringham, but then they gave me a call and they’re the best club I’ve spoken to.’’

He started training at the club in December under new coach Simon McPhee and aims to play at least one senior game in 2012.

‘‘They said they’ve had 18-year-olds play full seasons for them in the past couple of years, so they’re hoping I can be one of them,’’ Stevens said.

‘‘But I’m just hoping I can get one game.

‘‘Then if I get that I’ll obviously try and get a few more games in after that.

‘‘I love testing myself and being around all those good VFL footballers.

‘‘It’s the environment you want to be in when you’re playing good football.’’

Stevens has not given up hope of playing AFL, but conceded it would be a tough journey.

‘‘I’d just like to play at the highest level I can for as long as I can,’’ he said.

‘‘I’d still like to play AFL, but whether I go’s probably a long way off.’’

Sandringham operations manager Lucas Blatman said the club had approached Stevens after talking to Bendigo Pioneers regional manager Ray Byrne.

‘‘He’s obviously looking to play footy at the highest level he can,’’ Blatman said.

‘‘After he didn’t get drafted, we met with him’s good that he’s able to come and train.

‘‘It helped that he is a chance to play as a 23rd player.’’

The VFL has a rule where, if a footballer is listed as a first-year VFL player after coming from the TAC Cup, or is one of the four top-aged players at its aligned TAC Cup club, the footballer can play up to three games during the regular season as a 23rd player in the match day team.

‘‘It gives them that exposure to VFL senior footy gives them an incentive,’’ Blatman said.

Blatman said Stevens was suffering a bit from osteitis pubis and was training with the rehab group, but ‘‘we’re hoping to get him up and going by the start of the season’’.

‘‘Once we get him back in the main playing group, we’ll see where he fits in and he may be selected in the first 22 on his own merit,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re happy to have him and we hope he has a good season.’’

—Geordie Cowan (Echuca Riverine Herald)


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