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Change of scenery for aspiring WAFL trio
Change of scenery for aspiring WAFL trio

Claremont have taken left-field recruiting to another level by adding a former AFL boundary umpire, a former professional tennis player and a former US college footballer to their pre-season training squad.

Haden Martin, Harrison Keyser and Zach Johns wouldn't have even been on the radar of suburban clubs, but they all contacted Claremont and asked if they could try their luck over summer.

Martin boundary umpired 50 AFL games and three WAFL grand finals before being de-listed at the end of the season. The 27-year-old hasn't played competitively for 10 years and needs to bulk up, but his pace (he runs 100m in less than 11 seconds) and endurance (400m in 47 seconds) give him an edge when defensive pressure is required.

Martin said the change of environment had been great.

"The players have been really nice. I love footy and I'm enjoying the team environment," he said.

"A lot of the team-building stuff is the same that we've done in umpiring, but I have to prove myself again here.

"I'm finding the running during training is fine but you have to adjust to getting the body contact and then starting up again.

"If I make it, I'd say I'll be a midfielder who can run with quick bursts. That's where my strength is and that's the way footy is going."

Johns, 27, played as a running back, line back, kicker and punter in grid- iron as a junior then later played for the University of Oregon. He is 180cm and 86kg and has experience in soccer, basketball and baseball. He said Australian Rules had become his chosen sport.

"I love the game. I didn't even know it was around for a long time," he said. "I'm hoping to make the team. My skills and conditioning have to develop but my strength was pretty good when we did the testing. Rob Wiley has helped me with my kicking and so has Phil Scott. I'm enjoying it.

"If I don't make the team, I'll stay in Australia and play in the country somewhere."

Keyser is the youngest of the trio at 20 and is the son of former South Fremantle player Mark Keyser. He committed to playing tennis as a teenager and joined the Victorian Institute of Sport at age 14.

He received a scholarship to the Bob Brett Tennis Academy in Italy as a 16-year-old, so he moved overseas, turned professional and spent 11 months of the year on the road.

But the 189cm and 90kg Keyser grew tired of the constant travel, returned to Australia and decided to start playing football again.