18/04/2024

About 75 kilometres north of Melbourne, you’ll find the not-so-anymore small town of Kilmore. Described so long as a country town, it now borders metropolitan Victoria, and is called home by 11,000 people.

For years, there was one thing in particular that made people at least know of the town, that being Assumption College.

A secondary college renowned for its sports program; and even more so, it’s love for Aussie Rules. Some of the game’s most loved characters called the school and its boarding houses home before being drafted into the AFL.

In this series, The Inner Sanctum talks with players who have gone on to play in AFL, describing what it was like to attend the college, and be a part of its rich football history.

It had always been a dream for Harry Rowston to play AFL. With football running through his family’s veins, it seemed inevitable.

Rowston’s father, Phillip, was drafted to the Sydney Swans in 1992 but was unable to make his senior debut.

Rowston’s older brother, Jack, is also a gun footballer, notably playing in the National Championships in 2016. Jack is now the captain of the Griffith Swans.

A four-and-half-hour road trip across the border from Binya, a town about 45 kilometres east of Griffith, New South Wales Rowston commenced year nine at Assumption College.

Rowston’s older brother attended school at the college before him. This paired with the school’s football reputation were among the reasons which enticed him to board for his next four years of schooling.

“Footy is something that I’ve always been interested in. I grew up with it so it’s something I developed a passion for pretty early on in life,” Rowston told The Inner Sanctum.

“The footy side of Assumption was something I was pretty attracted to. I had an older brother that also went to the school, so that was also another factor. I had been there and seen him play footy and was able to the school.

“It was a pretty big move to chase a dream, but I think most people would do it to chase the thing they want to do for the rest of their life.”

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Football at Assumption College

So, Rowston packed up his belongings, left the family farm and did just that. Chase his dream.

Arriving at Assumption, Rowston said the school went above and beyond to help him wherever they could. This help came even more when Rowston was selected as a member of the Giants Academy.

Being interstate didn’t impair with his commitments, and the college made sure Rowston was where he needed to be.

“The school realised that footy was something that I really wanted to do, and they were great about it, especially in the boarding house,” he said.

“They would drive me to the airport whenever I had to get back home to go to Giants games. They were definitely amazing in helping me achieve my goal.”

Someone in particular that Rowston paid homage to was his First XIII football coach, Barry Prendergast.

Under Prendergast, Rowston and his side won the AGSV football premiership in 2021 – breaking a seven-year drought.

“Barry was my footy coach at the time, and he was amazing. He was so helpful and always willing to help out and give advice wherever he could,” he said.

“I think at the start of every season there’s always a little bit of belief, but once we started to get a few wins on the board, we really started to see that we’re a pretty good side.

“Winning school grand finals, even playing school footy is something that people certainly miss and brings a lot of people together.”

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Continuing to uphold its football reputation, Assumption College had recently began offering an AFL high-performance program in partnership with the Essendon Football Club. This was something those recruits who came before Rowston were never able to experience.

Rowston was among the very few Assumption College alumni to have participated in the program. He said the program gave him and his fellow teammates an opportunity to learn amount the game off the field as equally as on it.

“It definitely gave us extra support to prepare for all aspects of football. Especially having someone like Barry (First VIII coach) at a school that had been the AFL system and knew the ins and outs.

“Being able to just talk to him and get a bit of advice off him as well, it’s something that’s helped me a lot.”

Rowston gets his debut

Rowston was the latest of two ex-Assumption students to have made it into the AFL.

His friend and ACK teammate, Cooper Harvey, was also drafted in the same year, however headed to North Melbourne with pick 56 under father-son selection.

Rowston said he was absolutely thrilled to have had one of his teammates also fulfil their dream.

“It’s pretty special to have someone else from the same team, from the same year level at school drafted,” he said.

“To be able to share that with Cooper is pretty surreal. But it’s going to be something different to eventually be playing against someone you have a good friendship with.”

Rowston became the latest Assumption College alumni to make their AFL debut in Round 2 this year.

When Josh Kelly (concussion) and Harry Perryman (hamstring) were forced out of the side, Rowston was given the call up against the West Coast Eagles.

For Rowston, it was a day he had “never been so excited and so happy in [his] life”. You could blame the fact that Rowston has been on the Giants’ senior list for less than a year, but he admits walking around with some of the biggest names in the game still makes him pinch his self.

“We had a few unlucky injuries but fortunately enough for me, that of opened up a bit of a spot for me to be able to come in.

“We had a team meeting and Toby Greene got up in front of the group and called me. He told me that I was going to be making my debut,” he said.

“I’ve never, never been so excited and so happy in my life. To a chase a dream and finally achieved that dream, it’s something that you never forget in your life.

“It’s probably as good as it gets. You get to walk around the club with the superstars of the game and you call them your mates. You pinch yourself every day.”

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