The Maitland Saints continue to earn their AFL stripes with five players named in Black Diamond AFL representative teams to play against Sydney Swans academy sides on February 28.
Original Saints Wade Beard and Jimmy Taranto have been picked in the BDAFL under-25 squad and young stars Patrick McMahon, Hayden Taylor and Mitchell Greaves have been selected in the under-19 squad.
Both teams will be finalised after training sessions on February 23 and 25, with the under 25s to play the Swans under-18 team and under 19s to play the Swans under 16s at Lakeside Oval, near the SCG, on Sunday, February 28.
Beard and Taranto said they were surprised when notified they have been selected in the squad.
But it is fitting recognition of both players performances since joining the Saints, with Taranto winning the BDAFL Division 1 best and fairest award the past two years and Beard leading the goal kicking and recording several top-five finishes in the league best and fairest.
Beard said he and Taranto had played together since juniors at Cardiff Hawks and were looking to finally playing with their teammate from those days Sam Brazzington again.
“Sam’s playing out at Singleton now and we give each other a bit of stick whenever we play against each other,” Beard said.
“It will be nice to be on the same side.”
Taranto said the opportunity to play at representative level was too good to miss.
“We’re getting on a bit, so you never know if you’ll get another chance.”
The selection of McMahon, Taylor and Greaves is a vote of confidence in the Saints’ future with the trio likely to form the backbone of the club in the years to come.
Taylor had a break-out first season with the Saints, playing predominantly in the ruck but also providing a strong target when rested up front.
“I wasn’t expecting anything like this. I was really just getting myself fit for the season ahead. It’s a real surprise,” Taylor said.
McMahon was selected in the BDAFL under-19 team in 2014 in his final year with the Saints before he switched for a season to Newcastle City where he played Premier League and Division 1 footy.
One of the quickest players on the Saints list along with good mate Greaves, McMahon said while the BDAFL side would have the advantage in size he expected their fitness to be tested by the fit and quick young Swans.
“It’s great to be part of it. I really enjoyed it last time, but it’s even better having Mitch and Hayden with me.”
Meanwhile, the future of the Maitland Saints is looking bright at the junior level with star recruit Ben Stewart and new coach Dave Ross passing on their football genes to the next generation.
Ross’ son Denver and Stewart’s son Zack are both part of the Sydney Swans Academy program and have begun a testing schedule of weekly training in Newcastle and fortnightly appointments in Sydney.
Zack is in the Swans under-11 squad along with Rahn Sonnerville.
Denver is part of the under 12s with fellow talented youngster Oliver Ladder.