Hale set to make mark
By DAVID CARROLL
COOLANGATTA product David Hale has his sights set on the AFL's big guns.
The 21-year-old returned to Melbourne this week after spending Christmas at home with his family, determined to leave no stone unturned in his quest to become one of the game's premier ruckmen.
Hale and his Kangaroos teammates were back at training this week with coach Dean Laidley desperate to lay the platform for an improved showing on last year's eighth-placed finish.
Among those Laidley will be relying upon in 2006 is Hale who played every game in 2005 and finished the season as the club's No.1 ruckman.
Hale matched it with many of the game's big men but he is adamant he must improve upon that performance.
"That was a good performance for me but you can't just sit on what you did last season," Hale said.
"It's a case of build on last year and go a bit further this time around."
Hale has his sights set on not only retaining the mantle of the Roos' No.1 ruckman but also on joining West Coast's All-Australian Dean Cox and Hawthorn big man Peter Everitt as the game's premier ruckmen.
"I'm still learning," Hale said.
"I wouldn't be up with the big guns yet. I'm still only 21 and most ruckmen are in their late 20s early 30s. But if I can improve on last year I'll be happy."
Hale signed with the Roos in 2001 after playing his junior football with the Coolangatta-Tweed Blues. He was snapped up in the first round of the draft behind players the calibre of Chris Judd and Luke Ball.
But while they have established themselves as superstars with West Coast and St Kilda respectively, Hale has tread a slower path.
"The size I was, 200cm and 80kg, I was never going to cause any trouble," Hale said of his delayed debut.
"So I was just learning the game and getting a bit stronger."
Hale earned his AFL debut in 2003, playing three games before notching up 11 appearances in 2004.
In 2005 Hale played every game, sharing the rucking duties with Drew Petrie and managing to hold his own against some of the game's best.
Now he is ready to up the tempo. Weighing in at 106kgs he is now big enough to not only absorb the roughhouse tactics associated with the ruck but also to hand out some of his own.
The Kangaroos will launch their season when they play Port Adelaide in the opening round on April 1.