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Fremantle Next Generation Academy coach Tendai Mzungu is hopeful rookie recruit Leno Thomas will benefit greatly from playing football in a full time environment.
Thomas will look to follow in the footsteps of fellow NGA graduate and defender Jason Carter and break into the Fremantle line-up in his first season.
The 18-year-old is now one of four NGA graduates at Fremantle, joined by Carter, no.9 pick Liam Henry and fellow 2019 NGA rookie signing Isaiah Butters.
Mzungu said Thomas has developed greatly in his time schooling with Clontarf and playing football with Claremont, and he expects this trajectory to continue at Freo.
“Leno moved down to Perth from Warmun when he was 13-years-old. English was his second language so he had some real challenges adapting to Perth life,” Mzungu said.
“It’s a great story of someone who has persevered. He’s faced adversity a lot of times and has responded each time. I’m really proud of him.
“I know his family and friends will be pumped to see how far he’s come. He’s a great story for the Warmun community and also for our community as well.
“Now he’s in a full time environment at Fremantle, I think he’s in a really good place to blossom and attack the pre-season period.”
Thomas made headlines when he saved Claremont in the 2019 WAFL colts Grand Final against Peel.
His smother prevented a shot on goal and preserved the Tigers’ five-point lead in the dying moments.
Mzungu said he was thrilled watching on in the stands.
“He tells me he was the hero on grand final day,” Mzungu said.
“It was a great story for him, all the hard work that’s gone into his season, to get that moment where he stood up and did that smother, I was certainly excited up in the stands and punching the sky.
“He’s going to provide some real highlights and I look forward to seeing him in that environment.”
Originally a forward, Mzungu said Thomas shone when he switched to defence.
“He’s an exciting player, he likes to run and dash off the half back flank,” Mzungu said.
“He grew up as a forward for most of his career but he was thrown down back last year and he excelled in that position.
“As his fitness improved, he started to run and he kicks the ball really well.
“He’s got a lot developing to do and improving but no doubt he has some exciting traits.”