Habits developed while representing Australia in basketball allowed Jay Rantall to transition seamlessly into the NAB League with the GWV Rebels this season.
The 18-year-old reached a peak in his junior basketball career by playing for his country at last year’s FIBA Under-17 World Cup in Argentina as well as the Under-16 Asian Championships in China earlier in 2018.
Rantall maintained a presence at local football club South Warrnambool (Hampden FNL) through his junior career but only fully committed to the oval ball late last year, upon realising he’d “fallen in love with footy”. Less than 12 months later, he’s a genuine prospect for selection in the 2019 NAB AFL Draft on November 27-28.
With no previous experience in the football talent pathway, Rantall emerged as a hard-nosed 184cm midfielder this season. He averaged 25 disposals and seven tackles per game as well as kicking 11 goals across 12 matches for the Rebels, later claiming GWV’s best-and-fairest award and NAB League Boys Team of the Year honours.
* Visit the ‘Highlights’ section of the NAB League app to watch Jay Rantall’s 2019 season highlights.
Rantall’s elite sporting background clearly helped him adapt quickly to Victoria’s top under-age level and he soon appeared in all four games for Vic Country on the national stage in June and July’s NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.
“I’m pretty hard-working, so I knew if I did the work over the summer and then kept working throughout the year then anything could be possible,” Rantall said at the recent NAB AFL Draft Combine, where he topped the standings in the endurance-based Yo-Yo Test and 2km time trial.
“I had the ultimate goal of getting drafted, but I like to chop things down into smaller blocks.
“I had the goal at the start of the year to just play my first game at the Rebels. I achieved that and then I wanted to make the Vic Country squad. I made the squad and then I wanted to play all four games at the Championships.
“In basketball, you often have to play game after game pretty quickly, so you need to focus on one thing and then change focus to your next goal. That’s probably transferred to footy for me.”
Rantall’s professionalism is also clear to see in his running capacity, a trait he nominates as his current biggest strength.
While his game sense and skills took a while to become natural, that fitness allowed Rantall to feel he belonged in the upper echelons of junior football far sooner than many other converts to the sport.
“I think my background in high-end basketball helped me coming into an elite environment like the Rebels,” Rantall said.
“I thought I knew what it took to get your body right and I tried to lead that within the group. I knew not to cheat in your recovery and about what to put in your body.
“The Under-18 Championships then gave me a lot of internal belief to come back to the NAB League and help lead the side and become one of our most influential players.
“Once I stepped out on the MCG and played my first game for Vic Country (against Vic Metro in June), I felt like I belonged at the level and that all the hard work had taken care of itself.”
NAB LEAGUE ‘FAST FIVE’ QUESTIONS
Most influential person on your football at GWV:
“(Head coach) Marc Greig and (Talent Manager) Phil Partington have been great to me, but I worked pretty closely with Ash Baker, the midfield coach. He really guided me along the journey and helped me grow as a player on the field.”
Most valuable lesson learned in the NAB League:
“Just how switched on you have to be. You can’t have lapses within the game, because if you’re out of it for 10 minutes as a team, the goals can just pile on and you get to a point where you don’t really want to be.”
Teammate you’ve most enjoyed sharing the NAB League journey with:
“There are plenty of them. Being a Rebels player, you go up to Ballarat on the bus every Thursday with some mates from Warrnambool. We were already close mates, but you get even closer with a bus trip once a week.”
Most difficult NAB League opponent:
“Sam Flanders and all of the Gippsland Power boys. They were just a really good side – a competitive bunch who were strong and didn’t mind a bit of chat on the field. Sam is a good mate of mine and he’s a very competitive person.”
Most memorable NAB League moment:
“The win against the Bendigo Pioneers (by four points in Round 16) sticks in my head. It was a pretty good team win. We were down early but we chipped away and came back. They had a shot after the siren to win it but kicked a point.”
* CLICK HERE to see other stories in our 2019 AFL Draft Watch series.