Sydney Swans young gun James Bell has simple advice for any junior who is considering playing Australian rules football in 2020.
"Just get down there and have a go."
The Shellharbour junior returned to the South Coast this week to encourage local kids to try the sport.
Bell came from a football background but first tried Aussie rules as a 13-year-old. He showed promise early on and went on to join the Sydney Swans Academy.
The Flinders local was drafted by the Swans in 2017 and the speedy midfielder became just the third Illawarra player to play in the AFL when he made his debut last year against Port Adelaide.
As he now prepares for his third season with the club, Bell said it was encouraging to see more South Coast juniors take up the sport.
"I played soccer before AFL. I know rugby league is massive down here, soccer is just as big and AFL is on the rise," the 21-year-old said.
"The key is getting kids to have a go, that's what helped me. You pick up little skills from each sport then get your mates along and you'll love it. Just get down there and have a go."
It has been a difficult summer for Bell who, like many people, has been affected by the devastating bushfires on the South Coast.
"I've got a lot of family down the coast," Bell said.
"It was a bit unfortunate not being able to go down there like I usually do. But just to be able to make sure my family was alright was the best thing ever."
Bell said the bushfires had also affected the Swans' pre-season training, as smoke drifted across Sydney. However, he said he was beginning to feel more comfortable at the club.
"Pre-season has been pretty tough but the boys are all looking solid," he said.
"This is my third year at the Swans and I've got good relationships, right from the financial team all the way down to the Swans Academy.
"But I've still got a long way to go."
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