Being recognised as one of the nation’s top junior Australian Rules players is a great honour, but Cain Tickner’s eyes are fixed firmly on the future.
After representing Queensland at the under-15 national schoolboys AFL championships in Perth last month, Cain is hoping his best is yet to come.
Cain, 15, was one of 22 players named in the Australian merit team announced after the championships.
The talented centre half-forward, who plays for the Noosa Tigers, said he was surprised to be awarded such a prestigious honour.
The lanky teen, who attends Sunshine Beach State High School, hones his talent with the ball by training once a month with the Brisbane Lions Development Academy at Coorparoo.
Snapped up by Lions after being awarded the Jason Akermanis Trophy for the best-and-fairest player at the national under-12 schoolboys championships in 2007, Cain has trained with the squad since.
AFL Lions Academy manager Luke Curran said Cain had continued to improve his game since being picked up.
“He’s a good athlete … he’s got a good mark and a good kick,” Curran said.
Being part of the squad, which is revised every 12 months, provides Cain with the opportunity to be signed by the Lions when he turns 18 instead of going into the national draft.
Cain’s involvement with Australian Football began six years ago and he has played almost 200 games for the Noosa Tigers, giving away three years to many of his opponents in the under-18 competition.
Noosa Tigers coach Danny O’Brien said the teen was simply too talented to be playing in his own age group.
“It just wasn’t benefiting him,” Mr O’Brien said.
“He’s come up into a stronger competition and he’s holding his own.”
Cain said his ultimate goal was to play AFL for the Brisbane Lions.
“I love playing the game. It’s a good team sport,” he said.