Kade Chandler was drafted to the Melbourne Demons last month and said reaching the AFL was a “childhood dream”.
The 18-year-old was selected in the rookie draft by the team which reached the preliminary final last season.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity, I’m very grateful to the Demons, all my coaches, and all who have contributed to my footy career so far,” Chandler said.
“This means everything, it is a childhood dream and I couldn’t be happier, especially going to an up-and-coming club.”
The 173 centimetre forward started training with his new teammates, including former Wudinna United player Harrison Petty, last week.
They are joined in the national competition by another West Coast local Scott Lycett, who has signed for Port Adelaide after winning the AFL premiership with West Coast Eagles in September, as well as Carlton’s Kym Lebois.
After spending last season with Norwood’s under 18 team in the SANFL, Chandler said the step-up to the next level was immediately noticeable.
“It’s quick, high intensity, and faster and harder than anything I’ve done, but it’s unbelievable and so much fun,” he said.
“All other players have helped me and the other draftees settle in.
“Harry and I have known each other for a long time, we played against each other in inter-league matches and in Adelaide, and knowing him helps – I was living with him when I first arrived.”
Before moving to Adelaide to finish his studies and play for Norwood, Chandler grew up donning the Western United jersey in the Far West Football League.
He said the club was close to his heart.
“Westies are everything to me, they taught me all the basics and what a footy clubs means,” he said.
“All my Westies coaches had a massive impact and I couldn’t thank them enough – I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”
Western United president Rohan Scott said the club was proud to see Chandler reach the AFL.
“He is the first player from Western United to be drafted by an AFL club and we are excited to see how he progresses in the next few years.
“Now the local guys have got somebody else to look up to in the AFL and Kade certainly is a good role model – he is a very level-headed young lad and has got a good attitude towards football.
“Kade played all his life at Westies until moving to Adelaide and his mother and father are multiple-time premiership players, and best and fairest winners at the club, so he comes from a good pedigree, and we wish him the best for the future.”
Far West Football League president Ron Redford also offered his congratulations.
“The Far West Football League is very proud of Kade and what he has achieved, and we can’t wait to see how he goes with the Demons,” he said.
“We are proud of the entire Chandler family and their legacy to football in the Far West region.”
His father Milton Chandler said this was a reward for his hard work.
“We are proud of him, it has always been a dream of his right from an early age which he pursued,” he said.
“It is great that Kade has this opportunity, he has worked hard.”
Chandler will spend time in Penong over Christmas before returning to Melbourne for the remainder of pre-season training.
He said he was looking forward to a big 2019.
“I’ll start playing in the VFL and I hope to get some form and play some consistent footy for Casey Demons,” Chandler said.
“I hope to make my AFL debut later in the season.
“I bring a competitive, ruthless nature and attitude to the game, but a team-first attitude.”