By Nick Creely
The upcoming Under-18 National Championships provide Oscar Clavarino with a unique opportunity.
Not only will the star young backman ply his trade in front of AFL recruiters as the most sought after key defender in this year’s draft, but he will also co-captain the Vic Country side in another chapter of his impressive development as a leader.
He is a natural born leader of men, and a young man that thrives with responsibility.
“To be recognised in the football region of Vic Country as a leader is really special – it’s an absolutely honour,” he told Star News Group.
The 18-year-old from Berwick, who is also a member of the AFL Academy, is an exceptional reader of the ball in the air and on the ground, and will be arguably the most important player for the Big V when they take to the field for the first time on Sunday.
As a member of Vic Country as a bottom-ager in last year’s National Champs, Clavarino said the lessons learnt will hold him in good stead this time around.
“The biggest thing I learnt from last year is simply how ruthless and switched on you have to be at that level,” he explained.
“The fast ball movement and elite skills makes it especially hard as a backman but at the same time it’s a great challenge and I can’t wait to be a part of it all again.”
His development as a leader continues to evolve – he has been described by many recruiters and team-mates in the last few years as a potential AFL captain in the next decade, and someone who will fight tooth and nail to get his team over the line.
“I feel as though I’ve gained so much experience in the way I lead,” he said.
“It’s the best way to learn and develop, to be right in the heat of it.
“I’ve probably made a couple of mistakes but nothing major, but more importantly I’ve learnt from it and continued to develop.
“Of course there’s still a long way to go but I love the direction I’m heading with my leadership.
“Working with ex-St Kilda captain, a 300-game player and now a leadership mentor in Nathan Burke is a great way to learn as well.
“He puts us on a path and pushes us in the right directions while still giving us responsibility.”
He anticipates a strong carnival for Vic Country, with a number of prospective first rounds picks set to shine – and he simply can’t wait to get stuck in.
“This year’s squad looks really strong in my opinion,” he said.
“With the likes of James Worpel (fellow co-captain), Hunter Clark and Luke Davies-Uniacke running through the midfield we will be a very strong force.
“Having said that, the other teams also look quite strong on paper so I think it will be how well we can bond together and work as a team that will define our success and I reckon we’ve got that in us, it’s just something that the Vic Country boys can traditionally do.”
Although Clavarino is on the Stingrays’ list as co-captain, he has been tied up with school football commitments with Haileybury this season.
“I love the balance of footy and academics that I can still have in this busy year,” he said.
“I don’t look too far into anything and don’t put any expectations on myself. Rather I just set myself goals to work towards that I know are achievable and that will keep me honest.
“I’m feeling good at the moment but I know it’ll be an especially busy couple of months coming up so I’ll have to really knuckle down with both study and organisation to be able to keep myself in the right mindset before things get too overwhelming.”
Clavarino’s Country side kicks off their under-18 games against the Allies in Blacktown, NSW, on 11 June, before returning for three matches in Victoria.