Keitel can deliver at both ends of ground
Picture: Michael Wilson / The West Australian

When it comes to underage key forwards, some are born big and some get big.

Those born big often develop into monster key forwards - take Travis Cloke or last year's No.1 pick Tom Boyd as examples.

The ones who get big can still become that type of player, but having spent much of their junior career as a midfielder or smaller forward it's not the only string to their bow.

East Perth's Tyler Keitel is a perfect example.

Keitel went through early development programs as a crafty half-forward flanker before a growth spurt over the past two years pushed him up to 194cm and into a key forward role.

He was picked in this year's State under-18 side as a key forward, but was the first player the coaches thought of when an injury to key defender Dylan Winton against South Australia in the opening round left them short of height in the back line.

Despite having played only one game in defence in his life, the 18-year-old thrived in the role and has since become the go-to man when the side needs someone to step up at either end.

"At half-time the coaches addressed me and said, 'you have to go down back now, just play your role and give it your best'," Keitel said.

"I tried to put that into practice and do everything I could to get the ball going our way.

"Being a bit shorter in previous years, I think that helped me to play in the middle and down back and things like that, play a high half-forward role and all these different positions."

WA have seen several players shine three games into this year's AFL under-18 championships but few have been more reliable than Keitel.

He knows where to run, is a solid contested mark and seems to attract the ball at either end of the ground.

After two weeks in defence, his three goals in a narrow loss to SA at Medibank Stadium last Saturday reminded recruiters how good he was as a forward.

Keitel hasn't received much feedback from scouts at this stage, but is trying to go the extra mile to give himself the best chance at an AFL career.

"It's been a goal of mine since I started playing football, I guess. I think every kid strives for that," he said.

"I think it just comes down to professionalism and keeping a level head, doing all the right things on-field and off-field."

WA lost their opening three games of the championships, but regained pride last week by pushing unbeaten SA to the line in a five-point loss. They have one last opportunity to claim a win on home soil when they meet Vic Country at Fremantle Oval on Sunday before the final rounds shift to Victoria.

Being a bit shorter in previous years, I think that helped me …" * Tyler Keitel *

The West Australian

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