GUTHRIE, RONKE READY FOR THE BIG TIME
BY TIM MILLER
CALDER Cannons duo Ben Ronke and Zach Guthrie are AFL bound after being snapped up in Monday’s AFL Rookie Draft.
Ronke, who won the Cannons’ 2016 best and fairest award, is heading to Sydney after the Swans took him with their first selection and 17th overall.
And his runner-up, Guthrie, will join his older brother Cam at Geelong after the Cats snared the skilful half-back with pick 33.
With Cam also a product of the Cannons’ “footy factory”, the pair are believed to be the first brothers to graduate from Calder onto the same AFL list.
And with another of their brothers, Josh, a chance to play in the Cats’ VFL side next year, there could well be three Guthries at the Cattery in 2017.
“I’m so happy to join an amazing club,” a thrilled Zach said on Monday.
“And to join my brother is a massive bonus.”
Guthrie’s football smarts, cool head and poise under pressure make him a potential replacement for retired legend Corey Enright across the Cats’ half-back line.
After missing selection in Calder’s TAC Cup squad during his bottom-age year, he became one of the club’s most consistent performers this season across 18 matches.
Ronke admitted that the move to Sydney- and the prospect of training alongside the likes of Lance Franklin and Josh Kennedy came as a bit of a surprise.
“I thought Port Adelaide and Essendon were my main two chances,” Ronke said on Monday.
“I spoke to Sydney briefly, it would have been a couple of months [ago] now. It’s definitely a surprise.”
Ronke’s selection caps off a whirlwind 18 months in which the young ball-winner has gone from winning a flag with St Bernard’s in the VAFA alongside fellow draftee Mitch Hannan (Melbourne), all the way to a spot on an AFL list.
Along the way, he averaged 20.5 disposals for the Cannons in a highly successful 2016 campaign that attracted the eye of several AFL clubs.
Cannons talent manager Ian Kyte believes Ronke would be ready to play immediately if called upon.
“Ben could nearly play AFL footy now if he was selected,” Kyte told the Moonee Valley Leader earlier this week.
For Ronke, whose elite endurance and improved ball skills have drawn comparisons to a young Kieren Jack, his selection was the fulfilment of a lifelong ambition.
“It has always been my dream,” Ronke said.
“Now it has become a reality, it is only the start.”
The pair will join new Hawthorn recruit Mitchell Lewis as Cannons graduates in the big league for the 2017 season.