Schoolboy star gets Sandy Dragons call up

With school football resuming, it was no surprise the Sandringham Dragons had to make a lot of changes to their team to play the Dandenong Stingrays in the NAB League on Sunday.

What did lift a few eyebrows was one of the inclusions.

Cameron Blitsas, 17, was called up after some excellent performances this season for Cheltenham’s senior team in Division 1 of the Southern league.

The left-foot defender trained with the Dragons for the first time last night. He’ll make his debut for them against the Dandenong Stingrays at the Trevor Barker Beach Oval.

The Dragons have been scouting Blitsas since early in the season.

Talent ID manager Mark Wheeler, coach Josh Bourke and assistant Jackson Kornberg all attended the Rosellas’ ANZAC Day clash with Bentleigh and took note of the St Bedes student.

“We’ve been tracking him, and an opportunity presented itself this week, so we thought why not,’’ Wheeler said.

“He wasn’t really on the radar as a 16, 17-year-old. He’s developed really well over the past 12 months and Cheltenham have done a great job with him.

 “He’s a half back flanker and reads the ball really well in the air and he’s a good size … he’s got a fair bit of courage, too.

 “It’s pretty unusual to bring someone in at this time of the year, but I like the look of him. He’ll be thrown into the deep end. He knows a few of the players but he doesn’t know a lot about our structures.’’

Although Blitsas is 17, he’s a NAB League top-ager and the Dragons will assess him as a potential 19-year-old player for next year.

Blitsas, who played in the St Bede’s premiership team a few weeks ago, was one of four 17-year-olds to get a start in the Cheltenham senior team in Round 1.

The Dragons are also putting glims on Finn Ryan, the son of Rosellas senior coach and former Richmond defender Des.

“Finn’s a late developer. He’s grown again,’’ Wheeler noted.

Des Ryan said his club was pleased for Blitsas, whom he described as a “late burner’’.

“He’s always been handy, but now he’s got some confidence, and confidence is a big thing for kids,’’ he said.

“Physically he’s underwhelming, size-wise, but he’s going to be nicely framed kid, a six-footer in the old terms, and he’s learning his craft. He’s very rarely been beaten one-on-one, and that’s a defining thing for me.’’