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Swans let Coniglio bide his time
Swans let Coniglio bide his time

Teenager Stephen Coniglio will not be pressured by Swan Districts into making the tough call between promising football and cricket careers despite being labelled a virtual certainty to be drafted into the AFL in a year's time.

The 16-year-old showcased a maturity well beyond his years in Sunday's WAFL grand final cliffhanger, booting four goals from 17 disposals to play a key role in the thrilling one-point victory over Claremont that broke the club's 20-year premiership drought.

The achievement made him the second-youngest player to win a WAFL premiership medallion, earned in just his fifth league match.

Coniglio was a State under-18s representative this year and is part of the AFL's AIS Academy intake for 2011, but has also shown talent as a cricketer at Midland-Guildford. He toured India with the national under-17s cricket team in January.

Swans colts coach Greg Harding - a leading candidate to replace Brian Dawson at the helm of the league team next year - labelled Coniglio as a gun who would most likely be snapped up by new AFL franchises Gold Coast or Greater Western Sydney.

Harding, a 78-game defender with Fremantle and West Coast, said the club had been stunned by Coniglio's ascension this season. The teenager is not old enough to be eligible for the AFL national draft until next year.

"It's a massive decision for him," Harding said. "You've got this one sport that puts an amazing amount of pressure on your body and you've got this other sport in terms of cricket, which he's highly talented in.

"I think he thrives on the fact that footy's a team sport. He's such a team-orientated player and when you watch him play, his tackles and his ability to bring other players into the game is as good as anyone you'd ever see play the game.

"I think he's really suited to a team game.

"I'd love to see him stick with his footy, but at this stage we're just trying to let a 16-year-old be a 16-year-old . . . we're just leaving it up to him and his folks because at the end of the day he'll do what makes him happy."

Coniglio's proficiency on both sides of his body in the grand final was evident. He kicked two goals on each foot.

He snapped consecutive goals to give Swans back the lead in a second-term fight-back and again put the black and whites in front at the 25-minute mark of the final quarter, marking from an Andrew Krakouer pass and coolly slotting his fourth major.

Harding put Coniglio's level-headed approach and composure on the field down to the strength of his family.

Coniglio is head boy at La Salle College in Viveash. Swans held back on promoting him to the league team until round 22 because of his commitments.

He averaged almost 22 disposals a game at league level, playing in all three of Swans' finals appearances.

Coniglio said he was yet to decide which sport to pursue, but was loving football and the club.