Hall learns on the job at League level

IT is rare for a player to make club history on their senior state league debut, but Peel Thunder midfielder Clay Hall can lay claim to exactly that. After his father Derek made 74 appearances for the Thunder, Clay’s League call-up made them the first father-son duo to play in Peel’s top flight side.

Clay has a bit to live up to given his father’s status as a two-time Peel best and fairest, but likely has his eyes set on another of Derek’s achievements – playing AFL. Hall senior turned out for a total of 76 games with West Coast and Geelong, and Hall junior is already making great strides towards the elite level.

Having mixed it with AFL-listed players at the Mandurah-based club, Clay says the whirlwind of being called up after just one Colts game this season is making for plenty of “learnings”. There’s plenty to get used to, but that’s exactly how the budding prospect likes it.

“Learning off the players that I’m with in this side at the moment – the inside mids that we get from Freo, then also the players we verse as well – you just learn so much along the way so it’s been really good so far,” Hall said.

“The step up is pretty big,” Hall said. “It’s a massive change from Colts where the oldest person you’ll verse is going to be 19, whereas stepping into League they could be between my age to late-30s, so it really varies.

“I like the change, I like footy for that reason. It never stays the same. The speed and physicality of the game are a couple changes I’ve noticed the most… I feel like I have a good balance of being able to step up against those bigger bodies, but also to hop on the players who love to run. I feel pretty confident in those areas of my game.”

Derek (left) and Clay Hall before the latter’s League debut | Image Credit: Shazza J Photography

Hall underwent a full preseason with the seniors but says he “wasn’t quite ready” for a debut in Round 1. Two factors quickly turned that around. An injury to Blair Bell provided Hall the perfect opening to break in to the League side, and his starring 26-disposal Colts outing signalled he was primed to go.

“(Peel coach) Geoff Valentine gave me a call that Sunday and said I might be in the mix, so I came straight back into seniors that week and they were happy with how I was looking,” Hall said.

“They had a fair bit of trust in me that I put the work in, which they saw over the preseason, so I was really glad they had the trust to whack me in and from there it’s just been awesome.”

Clay Hall (left) runs out for his League debut | Image Credit: Shazza J Photography

In making the senior step up, Hall has momentarily left his Colts peers behind. He was named captain at the level, fresh off premiership glory with many of the players who remain, but now leaves the leadership responsibilities in safe hands.

“There’s always that sense of guilt,” he said. “The night before my debut they had just been beaten by (47 points) and you can’t help but think ‘Oh, I could be out there helping them’.

“But I also think it’s such a good experience for our two vice-captains (Joel Rush and Darcy Clarke). They get an opportunity to step up and show their leadership values so there’s pros and cons to it.”

There are a few other Colts guns who have risen to League level in the first three weeks. Among them are Subiaco’s Koltyn Tholstrup and Swan Districts’ Riley Hardeman. Along with Hall, both are part of Western Australia’s state summer squad, and are in the top echelon of the state’s talent pool.

Both are also National Academy members, an honour Hall missed out on, but the Peel product says one other state teammate has the makings of a “superstar”.

“I think Dan Curtin is going to be a superstar, so he’s one to watch out for,” Hall said. “We’ve also got some boys coming through the summer academy who are looking really dangerous as well, so I’m super keen to see how it goes.

“It’s so cool to go to (state) training and learn what they’re doing in different positions, but then come to a game, I’m so keen to see how they handle it – their mental side of the game and how they go about it.”

Hall reaches for the ball | Image Credit: Shazza J Photography

The next game Hall will suit up for is against East Perth, who top the League standings at 3-0. For the silky skilled left-footed prospect, the opportunity to oppose former AFL-listed players is what excites him most about the matchup.

It’s one more game for Hall to continue to play consistent footy, and one more check mark on his journey to the ultimate goal of being drafted.

“I’m trying to really show what I have to give against some experienced midfielders. Three out of (East Perth’s) four midfielders are ex-AFL players.

“I don’t just want to go in there and think I’m the younger kid, I really want to show what I have to offer and it will all just be a lot of learning as well. They’ve been around the game a long time so playing on them is the best way to learn.

“The end goal is to be picked up by a club, that’s always the dream in the back of your mind… Anyone who’s willing to pick me up I’d go there within a heartbeat.”

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