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- Draft prospect Zane Duursma is the brother of Essendon’s Xavier and Port Adelaide’s Yasmin.
- The Gippsland Power young gun is tipped to be a top-five pick in the November 20 draft.
- Duursma earned All-Australian honours at this year’s AFL Under-18 Championships.
Recruiters all asked Zane Duursma the same question in the weeks leading up to the AFL draft.
The ultra-talented Duursma will be the third member of his family to graduate to the top level, behind new Bomber Xavier and Port Adelaide’s Yasmin, with a fourth – Willem – tracking to be a first-round selection in 2025.
Zane Duursma is only days away from joining brother Xavier (pictured) and sister Yasmin in the AFL/W.Credit: Getty Images
But the question had nothing to do with his much-talked-about family from Foster, in South Gippsland.
Duursma entered the year as one of the best prospects in his draft class, and ends it still in that company, but there was some concern about his form after a six-disposal game against the Allies at the under-18 championships.
He played the first two matches of the championships for Victoria Country mostly as a midfielder, and was solid rather than outstanding, then struggled as a deep forward in the aforementioned Allies clash.
Coach Paul Corrigan knew something had to change.
He and Duursma had a chat before the final game of the championships, against arch-rivals Vic Metro, where they plotted to give him more freedom to do his thing across half-forward.
The results were spectacular: 22 disposals, 10 marks, four goals – three in the third quarter to rip the contest apart – and 15 score involvements, including five direct score assists. There was an around-the-body set shot, and a sensational checkside finish on the run after shrugging a tackle.
Duursma is highly rated by club recruiters.Credit: AFL Photos
“Playing deep forward against the Allies for the whole game probably wasn’t ideal, but I think that Metro game was the real icebreaker [for my season],” Duursma told this masthead.
“It was a confidence-booster, and by the end of that game, I was on top of the world. I had a pretty good season overall, but the first half of the year was a bit slow, then after the championships, it sort of picked up, and my back half of the year was definitely 10 times better.”
What followed was a purple patch of form, where Duursma kicked 20 goals and averaged 17 disposals and almost eight marks and score involvements each in his last six matches of the Talent League season.
Not even the numbers do justice to the brilliant, class-above football the under-18 All-Australian produced that should mean he is snapped up in the first four or five picks on draft night on November 20.
“The main thing I’ve been asked is, ‘What got you going?’” Duursma said.
That Corrigan catch-up, along with playing his preferred forward-midfield role was his simple explanation. Unlocking one of the most gifted talents in the 2023 draft involved little more than that.
“I think staying as that forward-mid is what I want, and pinch-hitting in the midfield is what I think I will do as I progress, hopefully, into my AFL career,” Duursma said.
Harley Reid and Gold Coast academy prospect Jed Walter are widely expected to be the first two names read out, the latter from a likely North Melbourne bid, while Duursma and Tasmanian dasher Colby McKercher are strongly linked with the Kangaroos’ back-to-back selections.
If Duursma somehow makes it past North, Hawthorn, with pick five, are as good as certain to snap him up.
The silky-skilled 18-year-old tries not to pay much attention to the draft machinations, preferring to escape football when he is not playing, usually to surf, hit golf balls or hang out with his mates. But Duursma is aware which clubs have certain selections and knows it is highly unlikely he will join brother Xavier at Essendon.
Zane Duursma is tipped to become a Kangaroo on the opening night of the draft.Credit: AFL Photos
Bombers list manager Adrian Dodoro admitted as much after snagging Xavier from Port Adelaide during the trade period despite saying he would “love” to have the younger Duursma, too. Zane and Willem at least had the chance to play together at Gippsland Power this year.
The Duursma backyard battles as the AFL-bound siblings grew up were fiercely competitive, but there was a familiar theme.
“It was every bit as competitive as you can probably imagine, having three other siblings doing the same thing that you do,” he said.
“All the egos come through, and it’s lots of fun, to be honest, being part of a footballing family. Xavier was a bit of a bully because he’s older than us. He’d let us win sometimes, just so we felt good about ourselves, but he’d mainly assert his dominance and show why he was good.”
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