Is Jacob Hopper the next Adam Treloar?
When Adam Treloar was eventually traded to Collingwood during this year’s AFL exchange period, the GWS Giants knew they’d lost an inside bull and a future superstar of the game — if he wasn’t one already.
By Ben Waterworth.
But what the Giants also knew at the time is they had a Treloar clone waiting in the wings — via their academy system — and ready to take over.
A tough, classy midfielder with a ready-made AFL frame and a big presence around stoppages, Jacob Hopper could step into Treloar’s shoes almost immediately once he lands at the Giants.
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In 2015, Treloar was ranked first at the Giants for average disposals (27), second for contested possessions (10), fourth for clearances (four) and kicked more goals (14) than any of his fellow midfielders.
Yet Hopper, who’s likely to command a bid from a rival club within the first five picks at this year’s draft — meaning the Giants must match the offer to secure his services — can undoubtedly fill those chasms.
As NSW-ACT Rams skipper, Hopper starred during this year’s Under 18 national championships, averaging 27 disposals, 16 contested possessions, six inside 50s, nine clearances, one goal and 157 SuperCoach points over three games.
He also showed off his ability as a goalsneak for the North Ballarat Rebels in the TAC Cup, booting a club-high 26 goals from just 12 games this season.
“Having goalkicking midfielders was something I identified how valuable they were for a club,” Hopper told Fox Footy.
“At the start of the year I said I wanted to hit the scoreboard more and I think I was able to do that this year, which was nice.”
AFL Academy coach Brenton Sanderson, who has watched Hopper progress over the past 12 months, said the likely Giant is an outstanding prospect that could play as both an outside and inside midfielder — a similar flexibility to what Treloar had shown over recent seasons.
“He’s going to be a match-up headache for sides going forward,” Sanderson told Fox Footy
“He’s fantastic inside the contest. He’s a clearance machine and really tough inside.
“But then he can drift forward, he’s fantastic overhead, a really good set-shot for goal.”
Hopper grew up in Leeton — a small town in the Riverina region near Wagga Wagga and 550km west of Sydney.
His dad was a diehard North Melbourne supporter — Hopper claims he was “born into the Roos” — who ran the local Auskick program.
“I was into Auskick as soon as I could walk, really,” Hopper said.
Leadership and confidence seemingly comes naturally to him, hence why this year he was appointed captain of his state.
But that same self-assurance vanished during the early stages of his two-year stint at St Patrick’s College.
Hopper moved from Leeton — a town with a population of approximately 12,000 — to Ballarat — one of Australia’s largest inland cities with a population of over 90,000 — for the 2014 and 2015 school years in a bid to help him realise his lifelong AFL dream.
He’d always wanted to move to Victoria to immerse himself in the TAC Cup system and, subsequently, improve his footy prospects.
But Hopper underestimated just how confronting the experience would initially be.
“I hated it at the start, I just hated it,” he said.
“It’s so tough going from somewhere you know really well and where everyone knows each other to a place that’s completely foreign.”
It didn’t take long, however, for that confidence to return.