Port Macquarie Magpies senior footy player Max Bylsma has been selected in the prestigious Northern Heat development program despite his team struggling during the year.
The Magpies mustered only one win and nine losses during the 2020 season and did not make a finals appearance.
The 17-year-old kicked his only goal with the Magpies during that round three victory as Port Macquarie (75) defeated the 2020 premiers Grafton Tigers (74) at Wayne Richards Park on August 1.
"I'd only moved here this year from Orange. I'd been playing for Orange Tigers and football in general for about six seasons now, predominantly in the midfield," he said.
"I probably had my best season in Port Macquarie this year. I became the runner up for best and fairest in the votes, I'm pretty happy with that.
"I was in the Giants academy for four seasons before I moved, which is a lot like the Northern Heat side. Moving to Port Macquarie I'd say there is a bigger AFL following here, better quality football and a benefit for me.
"I think this Northern Heat selection will make me a better, stronger player. I'd like to improve on my strength and being strong at the contest while I'm in the development program."
His foot speed and second efforts have been rewarded at the end of the year with selection in the off season as part of the Northern Heat development program.
"One of the coaches for the squad came up to be me after my first senior men's game and said to just keep playing the footy I'm playing and the Northern Heat might be interested," said Byslma.
"I'd say my running, my work rate is my best aspect. I focus on getting around the ground, keep getting to the ball and chuck myself in there even though I have a skinny frame. Just trying to get as many touches as possible.
"It's exciting (to be selected) because it's that next level of football and something I've always aimed to get to.
"Having a career in footy is always the aim and the dream. If football takes me to high places, I'll always follow that."
The 21-player squad selects the best under 16 to under 18 players from the North Coast and North West Leagues for individual development and opportunities to participate in the Victorian Football League.
The program will include video analysis, GPS tracking, strength and conditioning training conducted by an ex-Sydney Swans coach.
AFL North West community football manager Paul Taylor said players took part in a selection day in Armidale involving draft combine style testing for height, weight, speed, endurance, vertical jump, skill drills and match play.
"Just as we see in the local competitions, each year the standard of our players goes up. Not only are we excited by the quality of players that will be involved we're also highly impressed by the commitment the players have already shown," Mr Taylor said.
"We had players at the trials who had travelled up to three hours just to be there, coming from places such as Port Macquarie, Tamworth, Coffs Harbour, Inverell, and Grafton.
"Our program is designed to give the players access to the tools they need to go further in the game. How much they access and utilise those tools is up to them and will be determined by their commitment to working hard both inside and outside of the program. Based on what we've already seen, this group of players will work extremely hard to go as far in AFL as they can."
Other Mid North Coast squad mates include Angus and Hamish Anderson, Harrison Lee, Isaac Malt, Luke Neal, Ronan Singleton and Jaymus Troutman from Sawtell Toormina Saints.
Jackson Berryman from Northern Beaches Blues, Hayden Proctor from Coffs Harbour Breakers and Jye Boehme, Dale Lovell, Mikey Luxton, Alby Popko from Grafton Tigers.
Jack Dadd, Bill Tydd and Luke Sing from Tamworth Kangaroos, Morgan Dunn from New England Nomads. Rhyley Thom, Ryan Newton and Cam Gaukroger from Inverell Saints.