A teenage rising star from the tiny town of Binya was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) for his state side in the recent Under 18 AFL National Championships.
Harry Rowston represented the Allies (a combined NSW, ACT, Tasmania, Queensland and Northern Territory team) in four matches against South Australia, Victoria Country, Victoria Metro and Western Australia over four weeks in June and early July.
Harry, a product of the Griffith Swans AFL team, was named Allies’ “Best on Ground” in two games and the overall MVP for the entire tournament.
“Everyone else was telling me that I played really well,” Harry said. “I reckon I did OK.”
According to mum Kirsty, a teacher who lives on a cropping farm, Harry’s achievement was due to the efforts of a “whole village” who supported the young midfielder as he travelled from his isolated Riverina town to matches all over Australia.
“This is proof that if you make the commitment, things can actually work out,” she said.
“People in the cities have no idea of the distances we have to cover to get our children to sporting events.
“Harry’s life is one ball of logistics.
“It’s incredible the number of sacrifices Harry’s had to make to achieve his dreams. He has missed so many events and 18th birthday celebrations.
“As parents, we have also had to make sacrifices to take him to games and watch him play. But we also need to thank other parents and those in our community who have helped him along the way.”
Attending matches in Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne over the past month required six-hour drives for their farm, plus flights and then sometimes connecting flights – before rushing home to finish sowing their crops.
“He would be on the footy field on the Saturday and then the tractor on Sunday,” Ms Rowston said.
Extensive travel is nothing new for Harry, who started playing AFL competitively at the age of six. Since then, he has been regularly travelling to Narrandera and Wagga for matches.
Growing up, Harry also excelled at cricket, but AFL was always going to be his first choice. His father Phil Rowston is a former Sydney Swans player, while his older brothers Jack and Ben have been stalwart players for the Griffith club. Jack, 22, is the current captain of the Swans senior team.
Harry didn’t stay in Griffith for long. At age 13 he was recruited by the Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants junior program. He moved to the boarding school Assumption College in Kilmore, near Melbourne, when he trains with the local Cannons AFL team but plays matches for GWS. Meanwhile, he’s completing a building apprenticeship as he finishes Year 12.
Former Swans club president Jeff Harris said he was sad to see Harry go, but watching young Griffith players make it big was what the club was all about.
“We’ve always had a very strong junior program; it’s great when we see someone excel,” Mr Harris said
“Harry made the decision at an early age that he wanted to pursue a career in AFL and that decision is now paying dividends.”
Harry hopes to return to Griffith this year and play for his local club for the first time since before COVID.
By performing so well in the U18 AFL National Championship, Harry has now put himself in a good position ahead of November’s AFL national draft, when the 18 clubs pick players for their senior teams.
But his mum isn’t getting ahead of herself.
“Regardless of what happens, we are so, so proud of Harry,” she said.
“A draft pick really is a one in a thousand chance.
“He’s achieved so much already. If it doesn’t work out now, we can honestly say we have given it all we have.”
Harry said there’s a chance of being a draft pick even up to the age of 25.
“That’s what I’m playing for; it’s my ultimate goal.”