Shannon Leatch a Future Star?

By Martin Marpol

It was by a chance throw away comment during a lunch in February, that the name Shannon Leatch entered my mind. However, this name would very soon be at the forefront of much of my thoughts as I began to watch what I believe could, if given the chance, be a future star of the AFL….

At the beginning of the season I was working as part of the recruiting staff at SANFL club Sturt when a colleague of mine invited me to lunch to discuss some possible prospects. Through out the lunch many usual names were thrown around when my colleague mentioned he had heard a Richmond recruiter had been looking at and possibly already spoken to a local footballer. That local boy was non other then Shannon Leatch, a youngster (19 at the time, now 20) playing for a struggling club in the Southern Football League.

I decided to have a bit of a look at the kid as I was pretty intrigued by the possibility of a guy playing at a club like Lonsdale being drafted. However, what I saw through out the pre-season trail games surpassed any of my expectations. Leatch averaged 24 disposals and 1.1 in front of goal through out the pre-season and managed to keep all opponents under 5 touches a game. The more impressive point than the amount of disposals was his effectiveness, rarely wasting a chance with the ball in his hands. There was a lot to like about Leatch during the trial game period, but, the best was yet to come.

I had decided to look into Leatch’s playing background to see where he was from and discovered that he had attended and played 1st XVIII for Sacred Heart Senior College, a breeding ground for the AFL. I also found that Leatch had been spotted by Richmond recruiters’ years before when at Glenelg for U/17’s before leaving for West Adelaide after a falling out with, coach at the time, Gary Irvine. Leatch then failed in an attempt to make it onto West Adelaide’s list, after playing with broken ribs through out the trail period, Leatch was told he was not hard enough at the contest. Then when returning to West Adelaide at the start of this years pre-season Leatch put in a disappointing 3km Time Trial and was immediately told to come back next season when he had gotten himself fit.

What interested me along with his football background was that he had received athletic scholarship offers from two U.S colleges. This was intrigue considering how infatuated the AFL is currently with looking to other sports in order to find players. His athletic ability is certainly on show when he plays with breath taking speed and a surprising leap.

After seeing Leatch in action and doing a bit of research into his playing background I could see why clubs would be interested and found it extraordinary that he wasn’t at least at an SANFL level. With a strong opening to the season, Leatch’s prospects were certainly looking better than his team’s, which had struggled to make a dent in any opposition. Leatch had taken on the role of a rare highlight in an otherwise dismal performance week in week out and with the clever football brain, undeniable pace, great athleticism and classy disposal that Leatch commands I had become a full fledge fan midway through the season.  However, it wasn’t until a game against top 3 side Morphett Vale that I realised he actually had what it took to play at the top level. Leatch completely dominated his direct opponent and was in the top 2 – 3 best players on grounds from both teams. Now this on its own may not seem like much, however, when you consider his team went down by 39 goals….. You can see my point.

Leatch has continued his good form this season averaging over 20 disposals a game and has been increasingly adding to his resume of why he should get a shot at the top level. For example when playing in a 19 goal loss against Christies Beach, Leatch tore his opposition apart gathering over 30 touches and showcasing his brilliant ability to move through traffic and speed. However, it’s his work rate which has been the greatest stand out for me. Time and time again Leatch is taking the ball from a half back position and linking through passes by hand and foot all the way to the half forward line where he delivers inside 50.  Leatch’s work rate is also evident by the simple fact that he plays an entire game on the wing as his team’s key playmaker, linking through the midfield and with the workload that’s asked of him it’s impressive to see him still running hard at the end of games.

Whilst the few discussions I’ve had with Leatch have had him firmly stating that he is simply looking to try and get himself out to an SANFL club whether that be at reserves or league level, I can’t help but wonder if early season phone calls from Richmond recruiters have left him hopeful of his childhood dream coming true. Unfortunately Leatch wasn’t invited to the newly re-named State Combine (State screening), where his athletic abilities would have been tested and no doubt impressed many. However, I am still hopeful this young lad will get a call up come the December rookie draft as this kid has the potential and work ethic, I believe, to really succeed. Some times there just needs to be that one person that says “ok I’m going to take a chance” and makes a decision on a bloke. We saw it with the J-Pod & Barlow this year, risks taken and well rewarded; I believe Leatch could be that next fairy-tale story worthy of a Walt Disney film. I see Leatch with the style of play he exhibits having the potential to be a Dale Thomas like player, only faster.

I can now only sit back and wait and hope that some one on a recruiting team out there is that brave man that makes the brave decision. If only Leatch had been given the chance to be state screened or maybe a chance prior to the pre-season draft to train with a club with other potential draftees, then maybe we will the next football fairy-tale.

Martin M.


  1. Martin,

    I’ll remember the name Shannon Leatch, and if the Tigers (or anyone) recruit him, I’ll be sure to revive this article. Would be a great story if he makes the grade.

  2. Thought I’d throw up some more info that impresses me about this youngster. He studies full time at university and also works full time as a personal trainer.. so as you can see his work ethic is very impressive managing to maintain his training regime whilst juggling all his other commitments.

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