Days at his junior football club and the role it played in helping him become an AFL player – it’s something Cam Rayner says he will never forget.
To acknowledge this, Rayner and teammate Ryan Lester arranged for all Brisbane Lions players to wear their junior football jumper at Tuesday’s training session at The Gabba.
Rayner, a proud product of the Hillside Sharks in Melbourne’s northwest, spoke about the initiative and why it was about more than just wearing the jumper.
“Junior football clubs are extremely important for the development of footballers around Australia,” he said.
“It’s great to look around and see all the different junior clubs the boys have come from, and most players would have been through the same things and enjoyed their junior footy clubs the same way I did.
“It’s also a long year, so this brings some life into the club and promotes questions and interest in other people.”
Having outgrown his beloved Sharks junior jumper, Rayner opted to wear his Western Jets guernsey from his Under-18 TAC Cup days.
Despite it being more than five years since the talented forward played for either of those teams, he said wearing the junior jumpers reminded him about what his Sharks days taught him.
“Just to enjoy football, that’s the reason why we play it,” Rayner said.
“I love how much the club meant to my family and it involved everyone.
“It’s also very special for me being the only boy drafted from the footy club, it’s something I am very proud of.”
The Gabba was a sea of colours on Tuesday morning with the team leaving their Lions kit in the locker and dusting off their junior jumper or that of a previous team they were drafted from.
Amongst the mix was plenty of local Queensland clubs, Brisbane Lions Academy jumpers and an array of guernseys from each corner of Australia.
Speaking to the media after training, Lions forward and proud Queensland pathway player Eric Hipwood, who hails from the Sunshine Coast, echoed the sentiment of Rayner’s comments.
“It’s good to learn the backgrounds of players but also the coaches,” he said.
“And (it was nice) to wear the Caloundra Panthers colours as well.”
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