High Jump Star Hall Heads To AFL


ULTRA-TALENTED Townsville athlete Josh Hall has turned his back on his Olympic dream to chase the AFL big time.

The international-class high jumper made the agonising decision two weeks ago and knows doubt over whether it was the right one will continue to plague him in coming months, but the gifted 21-year-old believes he has done the right thing.

His focus will now change from London 2012 in July, to November's National AFL Draft and the Rookie AFL Draft in December.

The AFL Rookie Draft appears the most likely avenue for the 197cm Aussie Rules novice, who has played just eight games but caught the attentions of a few clubs - most of all the Gold Coast Suns.

It's been a whirlwind few months for Hall but he believes he has found his passion, and it's AFL.

"It just came to me - growing up I was always in the back yard kicking a footy around, either (rugby) league, (rugby) union or AFL and I was always pretending it was the grand final and you've got a kick to win it," he said.

"So it's always been a big thing for me to be a professional athlete in what I do."

But that doesn't mean the decision was easy.

Hall has dedicated most of his formative years to high jump, been an Athletics Australia Olympic scholarship holder until now and this year recorded the equal eighth-highest leap in national history and second best in the southern hemisphere for 2011. The 2.26m leap in March had him well within reach of the a 2.31m needed for Olympic qualification.

It was a pursuit, though, that Hall said had left him "stale".

"I just thought I might need a new challenge," he said. "I haven't really had a break from high jump in two or three years ... so it's got a bit stale, I've lost the focus for it, especially with AFL coming in and saying 'you're all right'.

"So it's a good position to be in where you have two sports chasing you and you've got to make a decision on which way you're going to go. It's exciting, but it's also hard to throw away the Olympics next year because you've done so much to get there. I'll look forward and see what comes my way."

The hard work has only really just begun for Hall, having impressed with two goals in a trial with the Gold Coast reserves team in July, but the Suns conceded they were keeping a close eye on him.

Suns Talent Academy manager Andrew Johnston said while promising nothing, Hall would be a strong consideration for the draft.

"Obviously we see some talent there, some real athletic ability, and if (Suns list manager) Scott Clayton and (recruiting manager) Dom Ambrogio decide to take a punt on him, they're the ones who will make the decision," he said.

"But our message all along was that the decision was his, we would never try and talk him out (of athletics), but he had to make a decision one way or the other and fortunately at this stage he's decided to take up footy, which is good."

AFL Queensland Townsville development manager Peter Young, who first alerted the Suns of Hall's raw talent and prowess when he burst on to the scene locally this season, said he had no doubt he could make the step up.

"I think he can, I wouldn't have put him up there if I didn't think he could," Young said.

"I think he's made a good decision, but it's all up to him now.

"It's going to be a totally different kettle of fish going down there, playing footy and training fulltime compared to what he's done here the last three or four months."

Hall said he was determined to make it work.



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