TALENTED young Kyabram footballer Charlie Barnett certainly earned his stripes with his state earlier this month, helping Victoria to a win at the School Sports Australia (SSA) Australian Football Championships in Tasmania.
He played a key role as the 15 years and under Victorian side went undefeated throughout the tournament, claiming the championship with a 25-point victory against South Australia.
“Our first game I sat out as an emergency but the second day we played WA and I started in the forward line and that was a really good experience,” Charlie said.
“I felt like I contributed well and it was great to get the win."
Dad Justin said Charlie played a key role, particularly in the semi-final against NSW.
"As centre half forward he performed really well, and was named among the best on ground," he said.
"Coming into it, he was probably apprehensive to see if he’d be up for the challenge but he was certainly a significant member of the team."
Victoria opened its tournament against the hosts at Launceston’s University of Tasmania Stadium, the state’s main AFL venue.
And much like an elite-level club, Victoria dominated from the opening bounce.
Tasmania didn’t score their opening goal until the final quarter, by which time the Vics had well and truly run away with the match, booting 17.8 in a 101-point win.
The tournament continued against Western Australia, with the Sandgropers putting up a far better challenge.
The Vics could only manage the nine majors for the day, though it was still enough for a 45-point victory.
Against the Northern Territory, Victoria booted 22 goals, claiming a 142-point win and extending their streak to three games.
In their final match before the grand final, Victoria locked down top place with a win against New South Wales.
They were no match for the Vics, who kicked 11 goals to NSW’s two in claiming a 64-point win and advancing to the grand final.
In the granny, the Vics dominated and knocked off the Croweaters to the tune of 25 points, wrapping up the tournament and bringing the championship back to Victoria.
But it wasn't all on-field victories for the Victorian side.
"Obviously playing the games was great but it was also great meeting the boys who we'll probably be watching play on the TV in a few years time," Charlie said.
"I watched some really inspirational games and all round it was just a really good feeling."
The Vic side bonded especially well with the boys from the NT, even after they beat them comprehensively.
"We just got along really well with each other, to the point that when we got into the grand final the NT boys came out to give us a guard of honour onto the ground," Charlie said.