Lockhart thirds give French exchange student Zac Clavel Aussie Rules experience

Learning curve: Zacharie Clavel and George Flanagan. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE
Learning curve: Zacharie Clavel and George Flanagan. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

WITHIN two hours of arriving in Albury, Zacharie Clavel was off to his first Australian Rules training session.

In less than a day, he played his first game.

Still not really sure of what the rules of the game were, the French exchange student ran out with his new teammates at Lockhart in the thirds.

It’s been a steep learning curve for the Frenchman, who grew up playing rugby and European handball.

Clavel was first shown clips of the game by an Australian student he met overseas, an his interest in Aussie rules was a key factor in choosing to come down under for his exchange.

“I looked Aussie rules up on YouTube and other site, but even watching a few videos it wasn’t really clear how it worked, it was hard to understand,” he said.

“It was really interesting, and because I was looking for English speaking countries to go to, Britain was too close and the U.S. was not as attractive as Australia.

“I used to play rugby until I was 10, then I played European handball.” 

In nine games, Clavel has kicked eight goals and been listed among the best three times – an impressive feat for someone who only learned to kick within hours of touching down in Australia.

The rules of the game are still a work in progress for the year 11 student – a memorable early slip-up was giving away a free kick for holding the ball when he simply put the ball on the ground – but his Demons teammates have helped him get up to speed.

“It was pretty hard to understand the rules, because I wasn’t sure what to do when the umpire was whistling, what you had to do.

“But my my teammates have been really awesome, they’ve introduced me really well, given the the ball a lot.

“I feel really comfortable with the team, it’s a special club and I’m really enjoying playing with them.” 

The Demons have looked to make Clavel's time with them as memorable as possible, giving him a special copy of their team's song at the presentation night, and including him in their team photo, which was taken just before his first game.

Clavel has never had to look far for a training buddy at home.

His hosts, the Flanagan family, in particular host brother George, are always up for a kick of the Sherrin.

“It’s been fun having an older brother that plays footy with me,” George said.

“It’s pretty cool how quickly he adapted to the game, he’s understood it faster than people who have been playing footy for most of their lives.

“I’m definitely surprised by how quickly he picked it up – he’s pretty quick and strong which has helped him out.”  

Lockhart finished the season in fifth place, but have battled their way to the grand final where they will face Brock-Burrum.