St Kilda’s Next Generation Academy reunited to take part in a two-day camp between Trevor Barker Beach Oval and RSEA Park. 

Under Academy leaders Nick Dal Santo and Trent Dennis-Lane, the boys homed in on improving and maintaining their mental focus, footy skills and gym-work, while also understanding the elite habits to become AFL players. 


The day began bright, early and blustery, as the boys arrived at a windy Trevor Barker Beach Oval at 8:25am sharp. 

The trying conditions did little to deter the squad, who got stuck right into a gruelling skills session, simulating a St Kilda main training under the watchful eyes of Dal Santo, Dennis-Lane and Sam Fox

There was only a 15-minute turnaround as the NGA headed down to Sandringham Beach, with a physically demanding tackling lesson on the cards.

These boys are all from different backgrounds, with different challenges and coming from different areas of the bayside area, but when they come together and they put on the same jumper, they’ve got really good buy-in.

- Nick Dal Santo

The boys worked on their strength and technique under the demanding conditions, and were taught the importance of recovery and conditioning by St Kilda’s Tom Laumets

A group lunch to refuel and bond marked the end of day one, with the group’s sights set on another big day at RSEA Park. 

DAY 2 

Another early start, but this time, with added significance. 

The boys took part in a traditional smoking ceremony, conducted by Allan Murray, who explained the importance of Indigenous Australian culture and gave the boys an understanding of his native language and customs. 

St Kilda’s Matty Parker, nan Carol, wife Shardah and son Matty Parker Jr were in attendance, along with Nathan Lovett-MurraySteve Parker, St Kilda staff and family members of the NGA players. 

Every player passed through the smoke, ridding themselves of any internal demons to tackle the day head-on. 

The group went straight to the theatrette, with the idea of ‘laser-like focus’ the central talking point.

Led by Dimitri Mascarenhas, the squad actively took part in learning what was required to maintain focus, understand when they’d drifted and what the best in the business did to stay on top of their game. 

Steve Smith, Joel Selwood and Michael Clarke were just some of the elite names that came up during the engaging lecture. 

That’s one of the biggest challenges for young footballers, but also AFL footballers, being able to switch on and switch off at particular times and being aware of when you’ve drifted a little bit.

- Nick Dal Santo

The boys hit the skills shortly after, splitting into two and alternating between football fundamentals and strength and conditioning sessions in the club’s elite facilities. 

Father-son recruits Tom Grant, Ky Voss and Sunny and Jet Peckett took part in the sessions, with the hopes of following in their fathers' footsteps over the next few years.

David Rodan surprised the boys over lunch, giving them insight into his unconventional pathway into AFL and how he overcame the challenges presented to him. 

Refreshed and alert, the NGA were given feedback by Dal Santo and Dennis-Lane about their kicking actions, before one final craft session rounded out the camp.

They love football. They’re pretty pure, they just love playing footy and that’s what they want to do so it’s relatively easy from our perspective.

- Nick Dal Santo