QUEANBEYAN Tigers player/coach Kade Klemke says Kaine Stevens is good enough to play in the AFL after the gun midfielder confirmed he will be joining West Adelaide next season.
Stevens’ departure is a major blow for the Tigers who now face an increasingly competitive North East Australian Football League campaign in 2014 without arguably their best player.
But Klemke said the 21-year-old Queanbeyan junior was leaving with the club’s blessing after failing to attract the attention of AFL scouts despite two stand-out seasons in the NEAFL.
“As much as I’d like to see guys getting drafted from Canberra, in Kaine’s case I think he’s done everything he could to be drafted [at Queanbeyan] and he hasn’t got that opportunity,” he said.
“The last two years I personally thought he was good enough to play AFL footy.
“He’s good around the packs…he can go forward and kick goals and he plays well in big games so I think he’ll be a great SANFL [South Australian National Football League] player.
“Going to the SANFL is the next road for him to take if he wants to play AFL and I think it’s the right pathway for him.”
Stevens was named in the 2012 and 2013 NEAFL Eastern Conference teams of the year and represented the conference against a Tasmanian State League side in June.
Tigers player of the year also captained the NEAFL under-22s side to victory over a SANFL under-20s outfit earlier this year.
Stevens spent one year in the AFL system with Greater Western Sydney in Victoria’s premier under-18s competition the TAC Cup in 2010 but was released at the end of the season.
Since then, he has gone about establishing himself as one of the NEAFL’s elite at Queanbeyan.
Stevens was on the verge of signing with a SANFL club last year but elected to say with the Tigers for another season.
With a number of inter-state clubs once again showing interest following Queanbeyan’s 2013 season, the Jerrabomberra native said the time was right to take the next step.
“I was still 50/50 whether to go or not right up until I made the decision because Queanbeyan’s been such a good club to me but I think if I didn’t go I’d regret it one day,” Stevens said.
“The fact it’s such a good competition down there and the chance to play in front of some pretty big crowds probably persuaded me in the end.”
But having already had his AFL dream cut short once in his career, Stevens is remaining circumspect about whether the move will improve his chances of being drafted.
“Playing AFL’s always been the dream and it always will be but I’m just focused on playing SANFL at the moment,” he said.
Klemke, meanwhile, confirmed the Tigers would be unlikely to attempt to sign a direct midfield replacement for Stevens at this late stage of the recruitment process.