Back row (from left: Matt Scharenberg, Christian Salem (Brighton Grammar), Kade Kolodjashnij, Nathan Freeman (Haileybury), James Aish (Concordia College). Front row: Jack Billings (Scotch College), Tom Boyd (Luther College), Josh Kelly (Brighton Grammar), Marcus Bontempelli (Marcellin). Photo: John French
Once, when a player was described as ''a private schoolboy'', the term carried certain connotations. It suggested a kid who was well-scrubbed, well-spoken and well-heeled but often not endowed with the toughness or brutality coaches cherish.
As an old Scotch College boy, Campbell Brown clearly defies that stereotype, as do Chris and Brad Scott, the coaching twins who played without mercy (towards opposition players only) for St Kevin's in the early '90s. Conversely, the oft-criticised 2008 No.1 draft pick, Jack Watts, has been viewed - fairly or not - as an archetype of the private schoolboy footballer.
The private schoolboy footballer also was seen as a largely irrelevant minority. Two decades ago, the schools that played the first official game of Australian rules football, Scotch and Melbourne Grammar, produced very little in the way of AFL footballers. They might fill boardrooms and law firms, but the elite private schools, particularly those known by the misnomer of the ''Associated Public Schools (APS)'', weren't footy factories. Assumption College in Kilmore and St Patrick's in Ballarat - Catholic schools for country kids and boarders - had long histories of fostering league footballers, but recruiters wouldn't invest too much time scouring any secondary school called ''Grammar''.
Grammarians finished school and played in the ''Ammos'' (Victorian Amateurs) with the old boys, where they might score a gig as a stockbroker. Footy, by and large, was a hobby, not a career.
But money, as they say, changes everything. Today, for a variety of reasons that warrant highlighting, the private school footballer occupies an ever-increasing proportion of the AFL players.
When the first dozen names were read out in the 2013 draft, eight were metropolitan Victorians from the TAC Cup. Remarkably, all eight attended private/independent schools - including two from the Catholic system. Seven of the top 10 draftees attended non-government schools in greater Melbourne - a statistic that would have been unthinkable when Scotch's Richard Loveridge and Melbourne Grammar's Chris Langford - both later to serve the AFL in official capacities - were recruited by the Hawks in the early 1980s.
Brighton Grammar, Watts' alma mater, provided two of the top 10 players drafted in Josh Kelly (No. 2) and Christian Salem (No. 9), as well as late choice Jayden Hunt, who became the fourth Old Brightonian on Melbourne's senior list and did not play in the TAC Cup competition.
Jack Billings, grabbed by the Saints at No. 3, was a Scotch product. The Dogs selected Marcus Bontempelli from Marcellin - another Catholic school with strong footy traditions - at No. 4, while Luke McDonald, North's father-son and the No. 8 pick, attended Trinity Grammar, a school where Andrew Demetriou once taught and which also provided Tom Cutler to the Lions (pick No. 33) and Jay Kennedy-Harris (No. 40) to the Demons.
Collingwood drafted speedy Nathan Freeman from Haileybury College and the Sandringham Dragons, the TAC Cup team that, like the Oakleigh Chargers, has a relatively high proportion of private schoolboys. Ben Lennon, taken by the Tigers at No. 12, went to Ivanhoe Grammar.
Melbourne Grammar supplied Essendon's first pick, Zac Merrett, as well as a late pick by the Pies, Tom Langdon. Darcy Byrne-Jones - another of the growing brigade of hyphens - was Scotch's other draftee (No. 52) and the first of two APS schoolboys drafted late by Port, Haileybury's Karl Amon (No. 68) being the other.
The Giants' giant and No.1 draft pick, Tom Boyd, and Daniel McStay (Lions, No. 25), both hail from Luther College, the Croydon-based Lutheran private school that can now boast two players inside the top 25 drafted. Hawthorn recruit Billy Hartung (No. 24) attended the Peninsula school in Mt Eliza, while picks 22 and 23, Darcy Gardiner (Brisbane Lions) and Matt Crouch (joining brother Brad at Adelaide), are among the many footy graduates from traditional footy farms St Joseph's in Geelong (alumni including Jimmy Bartel, Matthew Scarlett, Cameron Ling and Nick Maxwell) and St Pat's in Ballarat.
What's caused this private school proliferation? One possible explanation - not easily verified or disproved - is that the demographics of those who ''make it'' have taken a turn towards the affluent. An indisputable reason is that these schools are recruiting kids from all sorts of backgrounds to improve their performance and brand in football. Yet another is that, due to their coaching, facilities and resources, a number of private schools have become attractive destinations for the football-focused family.
''Scholarships'' is the word one hears first, from people within the game and some schools, on the subject of the private school takeover of much of the national draft. Certainly, most schools do offer financial inducements - either reduced fees, or an outright scholarship - to attract boys who can greatly improve the first 18. In some instances, the scholarships are offered for general excellence - a kid might have to play another sport well, or the flute, and maintain academic standards.
Scotch broke new ground by offering scholarships to indigenous kids from the Northern Territory - the most notable and influential being Cyril Rioli. It was a pattern that Melbourne Grammar followed (Steven May, the apparent victim of Campbell Brown's late night pugilism, was a Melbourne Grammar NT recruit), while Haileybury was once seen by its rivals to be at the forefront of recruiting gun footballers, and Caulfield Grammar received major exposure when it landed a Gippsland kid - via a scholarship - called Brendon Goddard.
Melbourne Grammar and Scotch play an annual game at the MCG that commemorates the code's first game (played near the 'G in 1858) in a tradition that was re-introduced as a permanent fixture in 2000. When Grammar was embarrassingly walloped in one of those early games, the school decided to lift its game.
As former Melbourne Grammar headmaster, the ex-Test cricketer and current MCC chairman Paul Sheahan acknowledged, the school did subsequently enter the business of footy via scholarships. For Melbourne Grammar and Scotch, the foundation game at the 'G is their answer to Collingwood and Essendon on Anzac Day.
But Sheahan said the school didn't simply offer inducements to prospective footballers without considering what they would bring off the field - such as leadership and spirit. Grammar's Hugh Goddard, a cousin of the Essendon best and fairest, is projected as a top-five pick for the 2014 national draft.
Yet, scholarships shouldn't be overrated as a factor. Neither of Brighton Grammar's top-10 draftees were on scholarships, nor was Billings at Scotch or McDonald at Trinity. The majority of those drafted this year from private schools weren't recruited via the chequebook.
Xavier College, the Jesuit school that didn't hold a liturgical candle to Assumption's football program in the '70s and '80s, has become a major player in football - not least the AFL administration and player management. The Swans have five Xaverians in their ranks: Josh Kennedy, Dan Hannebery, Alex Johnson, Ted Richards and his neatly-named brother, Xavier.
Luke Ball and Jobe Watson are other prominent Xavier alumni, whose influence in the game bespeaks two other trends. One is that footy families have gravitated to Xavier. Ball's father Ray played for South Melbourne and Richmond and his mother Jenny and Josh Kennedy's mum are sisters of ex-Hawthorn premiership player Peter Russo. Josh Kennedy himself representing the third generation of the Kennedy dynasty. Hannebery's dad played for the Bulldogs, his uncle Mark for Collingwood and Essendon, while former Carlton player Luke O'Sullivan is Dan's uncle. Jobe Watson, plainly, has serious football pedigree on his dad's side.
A sizeable number of middle-aged ex-footballers made sufficient money to become private school parents. Their sons are littered throughout the elite schools - as are the ex-players and coaches who work for these heavily-resourced, high fee schools. Robert Shaw, an English teacher, runs Brighton Grammar's footy program, while Stewart Loewe and more recently Matthew Lloyd have provided assistance to Haileybury. Melbourne Grammar employed ex-Bulldog Michael Ford on a similar teaching/footy combination, and Matthew Knights briefly worked at Xavier following his termination by Essendon; last year, Xavier was coached by Dan Richardson, an old boy who is running Richmond's football department.
There's a cottage industry sprouting in private school football programs, which, on present indications, could turn into a space race that imitates AFL football departments (no school has yet landed in Arizona for an altitude camp).
More worrisome is the possibility that football is trending towards affluence.
Dan Richardson doesn't think this is too great a concern. ''The right talent will still find its way through.''