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Lions Academy shaping future stars

Academy Update: Luke Curran Lions Academy and NEAFL Manager, Luke Curran gives us an update on how the Lions Academy is going.

Hyundai Help for Kids Lions Academy and NEAFL Manager Luke Curran has seen many players come through the Academy system and thrive in the Lions’ Senior team in his many years in the role.

New draftees Jack Payne and Connor Ballenden are two such players who are shaping up as future key position stars for the Lions.

Both impressed in last Friday’s intra-club hit out and a strong start to the season could see them in the frame to make their AFL debuts.

Payne’s form in particular over pre-season has been enough to already warrant a one-year extension to his contract.

“It’s fantastic news for Jack. To be able to add another year to his contract is a great reward for him,” Curran said.

“From all reports, he is doing really well over pre-season and has adjusted to life as an AFL footballer really well.

“Hopefully we will see him play some good football this season in the NEAFL team and if he gets an AFL game that would be a real bonus for him.” 


Sophie Conway is another Lions Academy graduate who is performing strongly in her first season with the Lions AFLW team.

Conway kicked the first goal of the season in Round 1 against Adelaide.


“She had a busy year last year juggling hockey and AFL, and then made the decision to stick with AFL,” he said.

“She has handled that transition into the Senior AFLW program really well and has really grown and developed as a person.”

Daniel Fleming, Ben Sloan, Jai Kennealy, Billy Johnson and Jack Tomkinson are five current members of the Lions Academy training with the Senior team. They will play for the Lions’ NEAFL team in 2018.

Reviewing and building the Academy is a key focus for Curran moving forward.

“We now think it’s time to review things and build on our program – make it bigger and better,” he said.

“We want to expand the playing numbers and also increase our staffing so we can work with our squads more closely and give them a better program.”

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs