Singleton Roosters 'grateful eight' senior debutants reflect one year on

FLASHBACK: We turn back to the day the Singleton Roosters blooded a whopping eight new senior players on this day in 2019.
FLASHBACK: We turn back to the day the Singleton Roosters blooded a whopping eight new senior players on this day in 2019.

If you were to randomly select a date to symbolise the commencement of a memorable sporting journey then March 30 would make a valid case study.

It was on this day in 2001 a 15-year-old by the name of Michael Phelps became the youngest swimmer to claim a world record.

Exactly one year later two Brownlow bound teenagers by the names of James Bartel and Gary Ablett Jnr would make their AFL debut for Geelong.

Also on this day (in 2004) the Socceroos would welcome their 467th representative against South Africa in London.

His name was Tim Cahill.

The rest was history and the list of examples go on.

On a much smaller scale, the date also holds significance within the walls of the Singleton Roosters AFL club when (not one but) eight players made their senior debut in 2019.

FINAL SCORE: Singleton climbed to third on the ladder behind Terrigal Avoca and Newcastle City on this day in 2019.

FINAL SCORE: Singleton climbed to third on the ladder behind Terrigal Avoca and Newcastle City on this day in 2019.

The group, selected by Singleton senior playing coach Andrew Scott, would help inspire the side to a season opening 17-point victory over Nelson Bay.

'The Grateful Eight' as they were termed in the following week's edition of the Singleton Argus featured a diverse group of characters originating from six different states and territories.

Jesse Bates proved to be the most memorable addition to the squad as the (then) 16-year-old lined up in the forward line with his father Travis.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: Both key forward Travis Bates and his son Jesse would find majors in the Roosters' 17-point win over Nelson Bay on this day in 2019.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: Both key forward Travis Bates and his son Jesse would find majors in the Roosters' 17-point win over Nelson Bay on this day in 2019.

A few moments earlier, Travis had presented his son with his senior jumper.

"The first game was very special to me because not only did I get to play my first senior game that I had trained for as a junior but also I got to play it with my dad," Jesse reflected this week.

"Not many sons can say that which I find very unique about my footy career."

The South Australian father/son duo would both land goals for Singleton in the low scoring affair and Jesse would go onto to play a further nine senior games that season.

EARLY GRAB: Travis Bates outreaches his son Jesse to take a mark. in Round 1, 2019.

EARLY GRAB: Travis Bates outreaches his son Jesse to take a mark. in Round 1, 2019.

Cameron McClelland was the next to receive the senior nod.

Affectionately known as 'Swanny' after crossing the Nullabour, the 24-year-old would establish his position in the side's back six for 18 games.

On the other end, former Queensland junior cricket talent Matthew Cornelius proved serviceable throughout his debut season.

He would finish with 10 goals from his 13 senior games.

"Matthew was a great addition to the club as he really improved last year and he's stripped fitter for this season by putting in the hard yards," senior vice president Sam Howard declared.

FORMER BOMBER: Once a Hervey Bay Bomber, Matt Cornelius is now a proven Singleton Rooster.

FORMER BOMBER: Once a Hervey Bay Bomber, Matt Cornelius is now a proven Singleton Rooster.

"Cameron was also solid down back last season and he has also worked hard in the off season to improve his game."

The Roosters also injected some experience into its crop of new talent when granting selection to Canberra born speedster James Colmer and big man Jakob Vearing.

Colmer would make 16 memorable appearances for the side while Vearing, who has returned to the fold ahead of season 2020, would only be available on one other occasion in 2019.

"Jakob is a really talented footballer who would be consistently playing first grade if it wasn't for his work commitments," Howard added.

"Jimmy proved to be a professional on the field and the training track and was very consistent.

"He always aims to lift his teammates up."

ALL SMILES: Canberra recruit James Colmer.

ALL SMILES: Canberra recruit James Colmer.

The group also featured two converts to the game including Joshua Eade.

He remembers his senior debut like it was yesterday.

"I was so nervous before the game that I was shaking," Eade recalled.

"This wasn't just my first senior game, this was my first official game of AFL."

Eade would find himself marking Nelson Bay playing coach and former Sydney Swans premiership star Craig Bird for a passage in the third term.

It proved quite the assignment for anyone in their first attempt at the sport.

"Running out on that field was the best feeling and to be alongside the boys who wore the jersey with pride, just made me want to play to my limits to prove I belong out there with them," he added.

Of the eight debutants that afternoon, only two would be named in the Roosters' best six players.

EYE ON THE PRIZE: Luke Draper pictured in his side's semi-final win.

EYE ON THE PRIZE: Luke Draper pictured in his side's semi-final win.

Enter 20-year-old Luke Draper.

"The lead up was exciting, come game day walking out on the ground and having the team meeting made me nervous," Draper told the Singleton Argus this week.

Like Bates, he would also be presented his jumper by his father (Mal).

WELCOME TO SENIOR FOOTBALL: Luke Draper (pictured with his father Mal) was named in the Roosters' best players.

WELCOME TO SENIOR FOOTBALL: Luke Draper (pictured with his father Mal) was named in the Roosters' best players.

"So dad gave me plenty of advice especially because it was going to be a wet weather type of footy game," he continued.

"Then for dad to present my jumper and see how proud he was made me want to play to make him proud."

Draper would certainly make his father proud by finishing third in the club best and fairest by season's end to Scott (who would also win the league's Davey medal) and Will Brayshaw.

He would also find six goals despite playing down back for a majority of his 17 games.

FIRST GOAL: Jesse Bates is mobbed by his teammates after his scoring first senior goal.

FIRST GOAL: Jesse Bates is mobbed by his teammates after his scoring first senior goal.

As for the eighth and final debutant?

Rumour has it that the anxious Victorian walked past his coach an estimated 20-30 times on selection night two days prior to the line-up's settlement.

When learning of his selection he held back a joyful tear, notified his family back in Victoria and went on to play a total of ten games at top level that year.

Sadly, the narrative on this year's senior debutants will remain on hold indefinitely due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

NEXT TO DEBUT: New Singleton Roosters playing coach Jed Ellis Cluff now awaits his AFL Black Diamond Cup senior debut.

NEXT TO DEBUT: New Singleton Roosters playing coach Jed Ellis Cluff now awaits his AFL Black Diamond Cup senior debut.

However one can only hope new playing coach Jed Ellis Cluff and his fellow recruits also experience a memorable debut as soon as the game makes its long awaited return.