Jews around Australia shepped naches earlier today when Melbourne 18-year-old Harry Sheezel was selected with the number 3 pick in the annual national draft for the top-tier Australian rules football competition, the Australian Football League (the AFL – the premier national competition, in which 18 teams compete from around the country).
The North Melbourne Kangaroos, which finished at the bottom of the AFL Premiership ladder at the end of the 2022 season, picked up the graduating Mount Scopus Memorial College student with its first pick in the 2022 NAB AFL Draft, after Aaron Cadman was picked by the Greater Western Sydney Giants with the first overall pick and father-son selection Will Ashcroft was taken by the Brisbane Lions with the second pick.
Australian football (known colloquially as “Aussie rules”), the most popular winter sport in Victoria and one of the most popular sports around Australia, is a contact sport between two teams of 18 players on the field played on an oval field ranging between 135-185 meters (148-202 yards) in length and 110–155 meters (120-221 yards) in width. A team’s objective is to score the highest score at the end of four quarters of 20 minutes of playing time each. A team can score 6 points (a goal) by kicking the ball between the two large posts in their forward line, while they are awarded a 1 point (a behind) by kicking the ball between one of the large posts and the small post next to it. If it sounds confusing, that’s because it is – but there are plenty of clips on YouTube that you can see to understand the game a little better!
Like many young Jewish schoolboys, Sheezel played football in his junior years with the Melbourne-based AJAX (the “Associated Judean Athletic Clubs”) Amateur Football Club, before winning a premierships this year with both the Sandringham Dragons in the elite NAB League Under-18 Competition (for teams competing in Australian States Victoria and Tasmania) and Victoria Metro (a team of select players from Victoria) in the NAB Under 18 National Championship (a competition in which the best young players in the country compete).
“I’m so grateful to North Melbourne for giving me this opportunity,” Sheezel said to former AFL player Brad Johnson on Fox Footy’s live telecast of the draft. “I think that the club’s in really good hands now with Clarko [newly-appointed coach, Alistair Clarkson, who won four premierships with the Hawthorn Football club where he coached from 2005-2021] and new staff as well. I think they’ve got a really young and exciting list, so I’m ready to get into it.”
Sheezel becomes the first former AJAX player to be drafted to the AFL since last century, when Essendon used the 36th pick in the 1993 national draft to pick Julian Kirzner (who played four games over his AFL career, three of which were with North Melbourne) and Carlton used the 80th pick in the 1999 national draft to pick Jeremy Dukes (who didn’t play a game in the AFL). Sheezel now joins 295-game veteran Todd Goldstein, whose father is Jewish, at the Kangaroos.
While North Melbourne’s Jewish supporter base is relatively low compared with bigger clubs such as Essendon, the Carlton Blues, the Collingwood Magpies and the Hawthorn Hawks – the team which Sheezel supporter growing up – the Australian Jewish community, including those at his alma mater, seems excited that one of its own has been selected so high in the draft. and will support him in his career, no matter what colors he is wearing.
“Harry has been a Scopus student throughout his school career, and at every stage of his journey to the AFL has shown that he is a proud member of the school community and of the wider Jewish community,” Mount Scopus principal, Rabbi James Kennard, said in the school’s media release. “Through his own effort, he has combined his training with his school studies. This tremendous achievement is a true testament to his dedication. We wish Harry every success for the future. Go Roos!”