WA football will take its first steps towards erasing what it calls The Opportunity Line running through the middle of the State when the under-16 national titles start in Sydney today.
For the first time, WA will be represented by a division one squad and a second team selected from players who live in the remote northern regions of the State.
Since 2006, no player living north of Meekatharra has been selected to play for WA at either the under-16 or under-18 national titles.
Eleven players who moved closer to Perth, including Broome mid-fielder Jack Martin, have made the most of the development programs and broken into elite teams.
Martin moved to Geraldton while in Year 8 and has since played colts for Claremont. He isn't eligible for the draft until next year but qualifies as one of the two picks in the 17-year-old October mini-draft.
He is the leading contender after being named as second best player at the under-18 national titles and making the All-Australian team.
Claremont's Jesse Hogan, who is also pushing for selection in the mini-draft, and potential top-10 draft pick Dayle Garlett were the other West Australians picked in the All-Australian team.
Last year, Waylen Manson travelled from the remote community of Billiluna to Melbourne for the AFL draft combine, but struggled with the professionalism required at the elite level. Manson had never been part of elite junior teams and was overlooked in the draft despite his athleticism.
WAFC Pathways manager Darren Davis said the North West Academy aimed to give players greater opportunities to achieve their dreams without requiring them to leave home at a young age.
"We're trying to provide a higher standard or football for kids who can't get to Perth every weekend," Davis said.
"Hopefully being involved in this program gives them some preparation. A lot of these boys have never even been to Perth."
The team will play in division three against the South Pacific, World XVIII and Indigenous Boomerangs. The Phil Narkle-coached North West team was chosen from almost 100 players who are part of academies in Broome, Karratha, Carnarvon, Kununurra and Port Hedland.
Each academy trains once per fortnight and the entire group meets for three camps where they have fitness testing and games during the season. Since the academies were selected several players have moved closer to Perth, but have remained eligible for selection in the team.Meanwhile, WA's division one team will play against Vic Country today, South Australia on Tuesday and Vic Metro on Friday. That team is coached by Rob Wiley.
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