By Melissa Sheil
AFL players from Kalamunda Junior Football Club (KJFC) and Darling Range Sports College (DRSC) watched in glee as their former teammate and alumni Denver Grainger-Barras was selected as pick number six for Hawthorn in the AFL National draft last week.
The 18-year-old graduated from the AFL program at DRSC last year and is now moving up from playing with KJFC and Swan Districts Football Club into the big leagues, happily signing with the premiership winning club to kickstart his career.
Hailed as the best key defender in this year’s draft, Grainger-Barras is the highest pick from Swan Districts Football Club since Stephen Coniglio was selected as pick number two for Greater Western Sydney Giants in 2011.
KJFC President Dave Feast said the club is ecstatic for Denver and his move to Hawthorn.
“He has been, and will continue to be, the most perfect role model to all young aspiring AFL players at our club,” he said.
“His humility and work ethic match his talent and love of the game which is infectious to all that know this ripping young man and we wish him every success.
“Quite a few of the boys have messaged him and he has replied so they all feel like they are on the journey with him and needless to say we will see a few Hawthorn jumpers at training next year.”
Denver expresses similar gratitude to the club he said has been a home to him over the years.
“I’ve been there since I was four or five playing Auskick,” he said.
“They were instrumental in helping me get good and they have always been a home and a family to me.
“Every time I picture something good happen, it’s always on that oval in Kalamunda, so I’m never going to be forgetting them.”
Grainger-Barras also said he appreciated the guidance of his mentors at DRSC, who posted a video of students cheering at the sound of his name being called at the televised draft.
“I’m extremely grateful to DRSC and Aaron Black, the AFL program coordinator who helped me heaps with my game development but also my personal development as a man,” he said.
“I’m really thrilled and stoked about how it’s turned out since I always imagined that I’d be in a Melbourne Club, though I’m definitely still a West Coast fan.
“Being from WA it’s a bit of a crime not to be.”
DRSC Principal Rob Lawson said the school was buzzing with pride.
“Denver epitomises the values we instil at DRSC, including working hard, being resilient and making the most of opportunities,” he said.
Grainger-Barras spent this week on the East Coast, signing contracts, meeting the team and beginning proceedings to get settled as a Melbournian.
Also from Swan Districts FC is Zane Trew, who despite being touted as a strong contender for the draft, missed out, instead getting picked up in the rookie draft for West Coast Eagles.