Hamling revives fond memories

Thursday, October 6, 2016 - 3:09 PM

By Ken Casellas

We marvelled at the wonderful athleticism, the prodigious leap and sparkling speed of the skinny kid who arrived at Claremont in 2011 and became an instant star in the club’s colts side.

Joel Hamling was a beanpole, but he certainly could play. And what a delight it was for Claremont supporters to watch him shine for the Western Bulldogs in their magnificent triumph over the Sydney Swans in the AFL grand final on Saturday.

Now 23, and considerably more muscular than he was when he made the journey from Broome to join the Claremont Tigers in 2011, Hamling was outstanding at full-back where he eclipsed superstar Lance Franklin.

Hamling kept Franklin under wraps and his ten effective spoils helped him to restrict the Swans champion to just one goal.

This was certainly a far cry from when the slender 16-year-old played in his previous premiership side, Cable Beach, in the West Kimberley Football League competition in 2009.

Born in Denmark in the deep south of Western Australia, Hamling was brought up in the Kimberley coastal town of Broome.

He made an immediate impression with the Claremont colts and represented WA in the national under-18 championships in 2011. A fractured shoulder forced him to miss several club matches, but he was fit to lead the Claremont ruck in the colts grand final against South Fremantle when his teammates included Tom Mitchell, Marley Williams and Jesse Hogan, all of whom have gone on to excel in AFL ranks.

In the first quarter of the colts grand final Hamling leapt high at a centre bounce to tap the ball to Mitchell and an excellent passage of play ended with Claremont’s first goal, off the boot of Jack Richardson. Four minutes later a splendid low pass from Hamling found full-forward Tim O’Hara for the side’s second major.

A highlight of the match came in the third quarter when a goal to Henry Woods was the direct result of a great individual effort from Hamling, who revealed tremendous dash down the corridor before booting the ball deep into attack. Hamling ran on strongly to gain possession at half-forward before passing accurately to Woods.

Hamling, Mitchell, Hogan and Williams were among Claremont’s best players in a losing cause.

About six weeks later Hamling was drafted by Geelong after having made only ten appearances for the Claremont colts. However, Hamling was unable to break into the powerful Geelong side. But he showed considerable promise in Geelong’s VFL side and after 42 matches in three seasons he was recruited by the Western Bulldogs as a delisted free agent.

Hamling is the third Kimberley and Claremont footballer to have been recruited by the Western Bulldogs in recent years, following in the footsteps of Zeph Skinner and Josh Hill.

He was making only his third appearance at the MCG last Saturday and the grand final was his first match against the Sydney Swans side which included outstanding midfielder Mitchell, who was devastating in the second quarter with 14 disposals.

Hamling now has played 23 AFL matches for the Bulldogs, 11 in 2015 and 12 this year.