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Fritsch continues Casey/Melbourne link

Matt Burgan  November 25, 2017 9:23 AM

All of the recruiters didn’t give away anyway and I had my fingers crossed, but when I heard it was Melbourne at pick 31 – I couldn’t have been happier

LAST year, big men Tim Smith and Declan Keilty were added to Melbourne’s list, after playing with VFL affiliate, Casey Demons, and the partnership has continued in 2017 when Casey’s Bayley Fritsch was drafted by Melbourne in the NAB AFL Draft on Friday night.

Selected with the red and blue’s second selection, Fritsch had an outstanding 2017, which included the Fothergill-Round Medal for the best young VFL player.

The almost 21-year-old – he celebrates his milestone on December 6 – played 19 matches for Casey this year and finished the season with 42 goals. Only Port Melbourne’s Jordan Lisle (51 goals) and Collingwood’s Kayke Kirby (43) kicked more in 2017; Richmond’s Ben Lennon also booted 42 majors.

The 186cm tall Fritsch was also named on the half-forward flank in the 2017 VFL Team of the Year, and represented Victoria against Western Australia in state football this year.

Pronouced Fr-itch, not Fritz, the classy youngster said he was “so grateful” for the opportunity and thanked former Casey coach and now Melbourne coaching staff member, Justin Plapp, for his influence.  

“I’m over the moon. It couldn’t have turned out any better to be honest and I can’t wait to get started,” he told melbournefc.com.au.

“All of the recruiters didn’t give away anyway and I had my fingers crossed, but when I heard it was Melbourne at pick 31 – I couldn’t have been happier.

“I couldn’t speak highly enough of Plappy and I wouldn’t have been where I am today without him. He’s been massive. I’m so happy that I’ll get to keep working with him in 2018 and hopefully beyond.”

Hailing from Coldstream, in the beautiful Yarra Valley, Fritsch was proud to learn his craft in the town also known for Dame Nelly Melba’s Combe Cottage, Domaine Chandon and Rochford Winery (home to popular concerts, A Day on the Green).

“I played all of my junior footy with Coldstream and trailed with Eastern Ranges when I was 18, but I was a lot smaller than what I was then,” he said.

“I had a growth spurt and was playing senior footy for Coldstream, and then I had a call from Jack Henty, the former footy manager at Casey, who invited me to Casey’s pre-season. I was lucky enough to make Casey’s list in 2016 and I haven’t looked back ever since.

“It’s really family-oriented at Coldstream and we’ve produced about five AFL players before, so for a small town, it speaks volumes of the town.”

A marking forward, Fritsch said he would like to push up onto the wing as he builds his career, but he wasn’t putting any limitations on what he could achieve next year.  

“The sky’s the limit. I just need to work on all of aspects of my game and if the opportunity comes along [to play in the AFL], I definitely want to take it,” he said.

Now that he is at Melbourne, Fritsch continues a fascinating link of players to have won the Fothergill-Round Medal and end up in red and blue colours.  

Since the medal was first awarded in 1989 – named after football greats Des Fothergill and Barry Round – Aaron Davey (2003), Shane Valenti (2007) and Michael Hibberd (2010) have all played senior football for Melbourne.

Another three players, Bruce Cohen (1994), Paul Dooley (1996) and Adam Fisher (2004) also played reserves for Melbourne/Sandringham (then Melbourne’s VFL affiliate).