INVERLOCH-Kongwak footballer Campbell McKenzie has begun the journey to an AFL career after representing Victoria recently.
Campbell, 15 was invited to try out for the Victoria team after impressing scouts whilst playing for Gippsland Power in the Under 15 V-Line Cup in April.
He attended two practice matches in Melbourne and made the final squad of 25 to travel to Sydney at the end of July for the School Sport Australia 15 Years and Under Championships.
The Wonthaggi Secondary College Year 9 student was over the moon when he received the phone call from the coach of the team.
“I couldn’t really explain how I was feeling, I had to pinch myself,” he said.
But a spanner was thrown in the works of his Victorian aspirations when he broke his collarbone in his debut senior game for Inverloch-Kongwak on May 31.
Campbell would not let this injury keep him down and was determined to take his place in the team.
After numerous x-rays and visits to the specialist, he began a rehabilitation program which included a bike program from Inverloch-Kongwak senior coach Ben Soumilas.
He continued to be in contact with the Victorian coaching staff and when he was given the ok by doctors to play he took his place in the final squad.
Although the injury was not completely healed, Campbell flew to Sydney on July 19 accompanied by his proud mother Julie for the week-long competition against the state’s best young footballers.
He sat out the first match against South Australia due to the side’s rotation policy, which the team won comfortably.
It was in the second match where the key forward was able to show-off his talents.
He kicked three goals from full forward in the 100 point win over Tasmania and was named in the best players.
The next match against the ACT was played at Spotless Stadium, the home of the GWS Giants.
Campbell said playing on the AFL ground was a surreal experience.
“There was an atmosphere about it even though there were no people there,” he said.
The Victorians won their third match in another dominant display with Campbell playing up forward and sharing the ruck duties.
The team progressed to the semi-final of the competition and easily defeated NSW to book a spot in the Grand Final.
Campbell made an impact once again and kicked a nice set shot goal from 35m out.
The Grand Final was held at Spotless Stadium and the Victorians came up against the hardest and biggest team they had faced in Queensland.
With nothing in it at three quarter time, the Victorians held off the fast-finishing Queenslanders to record an 11 point victory and win the competition.
Campbell kicked one goal in the first quarter to cap off an impressive championship.
He felt like he learnt a lot from playing in the team and can use the experience to help him at local level.
“The matches were very quick and skilful,” he said.
“It was the highest standard skill-wise that I’ve ever played.”
As a keen Collingwood supporter, it is Campbell’s dream to one day pull on the boots for the Magpies.
But for now, the young gun will now turn his attention to helping the Inverloch-Kongwak under 18s side win the premiership.
Although he is still eligible for Under 15s, he has stepped up and become an important member of the Under 18s side as a centre half forward and ruckman.
Campbell hopes to have a big pre-season and make the Under 16 Victorian side next year, and play more senior football with Inverloch-Kongwak.
He would like to thank all the coaches at Inverloch-Kongwak and Wonthaggi Secondary College for getting him involved in the School Sport Australia Championship.
He would also like to thank his family and friends for their support, in particular his parents Julie and Dallas for driving him to matches and trainings.