JACK Ziebell will become the youngest Wodonga Bulldogs player to make his senior debut when he lines up against North Albury at Bunton Park today.
The talented forward played a starring role for the triumphant North-East at the recent Victorian under-15 championships and has been appointed vice-captain of the Big V for the national championships starting in Darwin next weekend.
But today he eclipses the late Claude Schulz as the youngest player to wear the maroon and white in a senior game at 15 years and five months. Schulz was 15 years and 10 months when he made his debut for the Bulldogs in 1955.
In the same year, one of Wodonga’s greatest players, Brian Gilcrist, also played his first senior game aged 15 years and 11 months.
The youngest player to make his O and M senior debut was Gerard Knobel in the late 1980s for Myrtleford, aged 14 years and 10 months.
Others to play O and M seniors at the age of 15 included John Longmire (Corowa-Rutherglen), Rory Hilton (Wodonga Raiders), Chris Naish (Wangaratta), Ben Doolan (Albury), Brendan Roche (Wangaratta Rovers) and Graeme McMillan (Yarrawonga).
Gilcrist went on to win five best and fairests for Wodonga in a career spanning 232 matches, but his efforts as a 15-year-old couldn’t match those of the late Brian “Wrecka” Leahy.
Leahy won North Albury’s best and fairest as a 15-year-old before going on to join Melbourne.
“It’s a bit of a shock,” Ziebell said.
“The coach put it out there mid-way through the year that it could happen, but I just had to train hard.
“This is the only chance I will get to play for Wodonga seniors.
“Next year I am going down to Melbourne.”
Ziebell has secured a scholarship at Caulfield Grammar and will play for the Murray Bushrangers in the under-18 TAC Cup when school football commitments permit.
In the recent under-15 championships, Ziebell kicked bags of five and seven goals.
Last year he played thirds for Mitta United in the Tallangatta and District league and under-14s for Wodonga in the Albury-Wodonga Junior Football League.
Ziebell was best-on-ground in the under-14s grand final with the team coached by his father, Gary.
Also making his debut for Wodonga today is Jack Russell, 16, who has kicked 38 goals in the reserves.