Wodonga Raiders have picked up a national champion.
Jackson Collins is Australia’s reigning under 19 ski paddling title-holder.
His father, Daniel, is a four-time Olympian in kayaking, winning a silver medal at Sydney, as well as bronze in 1996.
“I’ve only just started kayaking on flat water, I paddled surf for a long time,” Collins said.
“Ski paddling was a lot more fun and a lot more social, footy was always the focus because once you get into kayak paddling, it gets really serious.”
The 18-year-old will be one of the league’s most powerful midfielders given he’s 186 centimetres and a muscular 95 kilograms.
He spent time with the Gold Coast Suns Academy and Palm Beach Currumbin.
He debuted against Wangaratta in round 11 and will face Myrtleford in a crucial away clash on Saturday.
“I just want to improve the mental side of my game, just learning the game a bit better,” he said.
“I think that’s what the higher level of football will bring.”
Myrtleford sits two wins out of the five.
“I wouldn’t say we’re expecting an ambush, but we’re certainly expecting a really tough game,” Raiders’ coach Daryn Cresswell said.
“They’ve got some elite players, (Christian) Burgess is obviously a very good player and I really like the Dale boys, I think Lachie’s really underrated.”
The Saints’ hopes of an upset have hit a hurdle though with the withdrawl of best and fairest Brad Murray.
The veteran has had a lung infection for a week and has been short of breath.
Raiders have won four successive games to leapfrog into contention for the top three.
“We’ve changed a fair bit up with what we’re doing when we don’t have the ball, without getting into too much detail, in terms of what different players are doing on the ground and what their roles are when we haven’t got the footy,” Cresswell said.
“It’s about positioning too for players not playing in the back six, it’s where they should be.”