Toby Bedford is one of a host of Dandenong Stingrays players to benefit individually from the club’s run to the 2018 TAC Cup premiership.
Dandenong had a competition-high 17 players invited to either the recent national NAB AFL Draft Combine or a Victorian-based combine – an indication of how many Stingrays flourished in a one-loss season that ended in Grand Final glory against the Oakleigh Chargers.
18-year-old Bedford kicked seven goals and averaged 14 disposals and five tackles per game in nine matches as a 176cm forward for the TAC Cup premiers this season.
The Rosebud (Mornington Peninsula Junior FL) product also represented Vic Country in four games at the 2018 AFL U18 Championships and has put his name forward for selection at the AFL Draft on November 22-23, with the indigenous prospect a member of the Melbourne’s Next Generation Academy.
“As a team we wanted that (TAC Cup) premiership for the whole year, and as soon as we got it we were over the moon,” Bedford said at the AFL Draft Combine.
“We’ve had one of the strongest bonds in the group that I think any TAC Cup team would ever have. We were a team, but we were more than that – we loved hanging out with each other and still love hanging out with each other now. Winning the Grand Final with those boys was very special.”
Bedford’s speed and aggression toward the ball and the opposition was on show in Dandenong’s nail-biting six-point triumph over the Chargers.
His forward craft was an area of focus throughout his time with the Stingrays – “getting in front of contests and being clean and dangerous around goals” – after playing much of his previous football as a midfielder.
In that regard, Bedford has plenty of football role models from near his original home of Fitzroy Crossing – a small town in the Kimberley region of Western Australia – where he spent the first seven years of his life before relocating with his family to the Mornington Peninsula.
“Fitzroy Crossing is a small football town about four hours’ drive inland from Broome,” Bedford said. “My passion for football was there from a young age; I always loved it.
“It’s definitely a different style of footy up there. It’s probably not as structured (as in Victoria) but there’s a lot of talent in the games. I go back there every school holidays and it’s still like home.
“I have cousins like Sam Petrevski-Seton who is in the AFL now at Carlton and Shane McAdam who’s a mature-ager from Sturt (recently added to Adelaide’s AFL list); I’m related to (Gippsland Power draft prospect) Irving Mosquito as well. We’re the Kimberley boys.”
THE AFL DRAFT WATCH ‘FAST FIVE’ with Toby Bedford
Why should an AFL club draft you?
“My pace and aggressiveness to the ball and player are at a good level where if I was at an AFL club, they would develop a lot. I think it would be a good trait to have at an AFL club.”
What is the funniest or weirdest question you’ve been asked by an AFL club?
“I was asked (about) the scenario if (Essendon captain) Dyson Heppell was out of line in training, would I pull him back into place. I think being the captain, it would be weird to pull him back into place.”
Who is your football idol?
“Cyril Rioli (Hawthorn). He is an exciting player to watch and does stuff that no other player can do.”
Who will be selected with pick no.1 in the 2018 AFL Draft?
“Sam Walsh (Geelong Falcons). I played with him for Vic Country and he is just a hard-working player and an absolute gun.”
Which of your 2018 teammates should also be in draft consideration?
“The guys at Combine like Bailey Williams, Sam Sturt, Zac Foot, Riley Bowman and Will Hamill, but there are also a lot at the (Victorian) State Combine that could get picked up as well.”