Sport

Shepparton’s Orien Kerr signs VFL contract with North Melbourne

By Alex Mitchell

Every footballer that thinks their dream of playing at a higher level is over after facing rejection should consider Shepparton's Orien Kerr.

Twice told he lacked the size and strength to play for the Murray Bushrangers, Kerr refused to be deterred and knuckled down with his home club — and now he is reaping the rewards.

The 18-year-old has penned a VFL contract with North Melbourne as an under-19 talent, meaning he will push for selection in the state's top league while returning to play with the Bears if not selected.

Kerr said he could hardly believe it when the club's head honchos broke the news to him.

“It was the most unbelievable feeling when I got offered a Contract A under-19 contract, I was very nervous going into the meeting room with both the head coach and assistant coach to find out if I was going to be signed,” he said.

“The moment they said they were signing me I just couldn’t stop smiling, it almost felt like a big dream that I was now playing at the second-highest level of football in Australia.”

Kerr burst onto the scene last year with consistently excellent performances for the Bears’ seniors after debuting against Benalla in round six, regularly in the side's best as it pushed through to the preliminary final.

He said a link with Strathmerton's Scott Christie, a former North-listed player, got his VFL chances off the ground.

“I really enjoyed my football playing with Bears last year as I got my chance to play my first senior game as a top-age under-18s player, and got to play the finals series in the seniors squad which was a great experience,” Kerr said.

“Senior coach Troy King and Anthony Mellington had a lot of belief in me to play at the senior level and I couldn’t thank them enough for giving me the opportunity to really show that I was good enough to compete.

“When I was playing at Bears last year I was playing quite impressive football in the seniors and I was lucky enough that Scott Christie, who had connections with North Melbourne, had put my name forward in hope that I would get the opportunity to trial and participate in North’s pre-season training.

“I ended up getting my chance and it’s all been going forward in terms of my football career.”

But simply being talented is never enough by itself to crack a VFL list; Kerr said he had been grinding hard through the off-season to prove he had the work ethic to make it.

“Pre-season was a very big step up from local footy in terms of the running, physicality and the skills,” he said.

“Trainings had us running around 12 to 15 km most sessions, which was mentally and physically draining. I also had to make friends with a lot of new people as I knew very few people in the squad, but overall I felt like I adapted to the standard of footy required at VFL level and gave a genuine crack.”

And the 18-year-old said there was no shortage of motivation throughout the process, particularly after being overlooked by the local NAB League side the past two seasons.

“I did end up playing interleague for two years, but never made the Murray Bushrangers’ under-18 side despite trialing two years in row,” Kerr said.

“I couldn’t believe that I finally got my chance to show my potential in the second-highest grade of football in Australia after getting told I was too small in height and not strong enough to play at the highest level by the Murray Bushrangers.”