Still going strong … Jude Bolton, left, who is set to reach 300 games, trains with teammate Ryan O’Keefe in Coogee during the week.SWANS veteran Jude Bolton insists his appearance on the Leichhardt Oval hill to watch last week’s Wests Tigers-Sydney Roosters NRL match was not a covert operation to help the AFL in its grand expansion plans.
If Bolton was there to compare the pies at suburban Sydney grounds to those on offer in Melbourne, or the difference in the half-time entertainment or to take note of the number of mothers screaming for Tigers prop Aaron Woods to nail an opponent, he did not crack under interrogation.
”I love watching my rugby league,” Bolton told The Sun-Herald. ”[I support the Wests Tigers] and being on the hill at Leichhardt was great; a great atmosphere; it is always a terrific experience but that said it was sad for Robbie Farah [the team’s skipper whose mother died on the morning of the match].
”When you take that into consideration you can see why the boys started flat, but it said a lot for them as a team that they made a fist of the game and kept trying.”
Bolton, who is set to become only the third player after Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin to reach 300 games for the Bloods later this season, was as equally adamant the city and its surrounds could cater for a tribal rugby league supporter base and those who were devoted to his club or the competition’s new chums, Greater Western Sydney.
”Sydney is big enough for it all,” said Bolton, who is in his 15th season. ”I think GWS is starting to encroach on our territory but I see that as a great thing for the AFL. To have a game in Sydney each weekend is brilliant and it’s only going to build over the years.
”I think it’s tremendous we can get to different schools around here while GWS has a huge area to pick from and to nurture. Developing the game is an obligation for both clubs.”
Bolton, however, said on-field success was the best advertisement for the Swans. ”We have a good mix of old and young players,” he said. ”It also helps the guys who were exposed to some high-pressure games and intensity last year because they gained some confidence from that.
”We’re just pleased with the way they’re progressing. You only need to look at the development of guys like Lewis Jetta and Alex Johnson, [who] are having an influence on our results. We have a mentor system and I look after Lukey Parker and Brett Meredith and they’re going really well.” He said that while Parker had had a setback with a broken collarbone, his ability to work around the injury had been phenomenal.
However, Bolton stressed that regardless of the support network available to the Swans young guns, they needed the desire and drive to succeed. ”These kids have driven themselves so well,” he said. ”We have so many coaches who look after them and watch their tapes, and the mentoring is a sounding board to ensure they’re in the right head space. It’s great they’re taking control of their own careers and making the most of it. It’s only a short time in football and you have to dig in and make it count.”
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