NARANGBA teen Dominic Paino could be on the fast track to the AFL at just 14 after being selected in the Hyundai Brisbane Lions Academy.
Paino will be one of 220 players in the academy next year, meaning he gets high performance training from Lions staff, and the Brisbane club will get the first crack at him if he manages to stay in the academy until the draft in 2015 or 2016.
At 14, he already towers over most people, at 195cm.
To put this in perspective, the tallest player to ever play AFL football is Aaron Sandilands, at 211cm.
The Morayfield State High School student will start training with the academy early next year, and will be reassessed annually as coaches judge his progress.
Dominic said he knew his journey to the draft would be a tough one but he thought he had what it took to succeed.
"It'll be hard because there are a lot of really good ruckmen out there that all want to do the same thing," he said.
"I'm tall but I'm not a big built guy so I've got a bit more speed than most other ruckmen."
Paino's coach last year agreed, predicting big things for the tall teen.
"I reckon if he keeps the attitude he has right now he can play AFL without a doubt," he said.
"He's got a great attitude, great discipline and a really good work ethic.
"He's very skilful too, which is obviously a great asset ... just an ideal footballer that any coach would love to coach."
The Lions Academy may not start until next year but Paino is already seizing opportunities with both hands.
He travelled to the Gold Coast Suns' Metricon Stadium last week to take part in the NAB Rising Stars Draft Combine, undergoing physical testing with AFL coaching staff, including Greater Western Sydney Giants coach Kevin Sheedy.
Paino lives and breathes footy, watching every game he can during the season. If two games he wants to watch are on at the same time he will record one and watch them one after the other.
Paino said he was proud and overwhelmed by his selection for the academy and hoped to use it to improve his rucking as well as general game sense, hand and foot skills.
Brisbane North Club development officer Lachlan Harris said Paino's height would be his main strength.
"He came through (Northern) Raiders last year and was pretty raw when he came in but he's got a lot of upside," he said.
"Tall players are rare as hen's teeth in Queensland."
Anyone interested in playing Aussie rules should visit playafl.com.au.
Located ten minutes South of Byron Bay, a short walk down a private path will take you to one of Australia's best surf beaches. Set on 688sqm (approx) amongst...
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