'Dragon Tales' is a series of indepth feature stories on some of our top prospects in 2021, exploring their junior careers, their upbringing, the ups and downs of the dealing with COVID complications and more, written by Jonty Ralphsmith. This week we will be focusing on key position player Dante Visentini.
Dante Visentini did not play much footy for Jay Austerberry’s St Kilda City Under 17s side in 2019.
School football commitments at Xavier College took precedent as he made the school’s firsts team in year 11, so he played just the required number of games to qualify him for finals at City.
One of those first quarters was the best that Austerberry has ever seen in junior footy. Dante kicked four goals and gave three off and did not play the rest of the match as his workloads were managed.
“He came up to me at quarter time and said ‘Jay, you’ve got to put me on’ and I couldn’t, school wouldn’t let me and he said ‘I don’t care, I want to play!’" Austerberry said.
“He was kicking it from outside the 40 metre line. He took contested marks, heavy marks. Could’ve kicked all 10 essentially. It’s the best quarter of junior footy I’ve seen anyone play.”
“He was a generous footballer, not a selfish one and an out and out superstar."
It was at the pointy end where he really exploded.
In the preliminary final, he kicked four goals, after averaging two goals during the home and away season.
In the Grand Final, the coach believes he was the difference. After starting in attack, he said to the coaching staff that he needed to play ruck.
“And we did that and we won the game. If we don’t have a Dante playing, we don’t win that grand final.
“He was a competitive bull. He doesn’t like to be beaten on the ground or in the air.
"He’s a pretty talented kid, Dante, and at that height, geez, he’d be a wasted talent if he didn’t get into the AFL system, that’s for sure.
“He’s a humble kid, he’s not a flashy, 'I want to be in the media' type kid. He’s very well-natured.
“He reached out not long ago when he found out I was going to be a dad and wished me all the best – I think that shows you the sort of person he is.”
From a footy perspective, he is team first.
Reflecting on the 2019 flag, Visentini says: “it was pissing down rain so not great for a key position player, I was quieter [than the prelim] but it was a good team win.”
At the under 16’s National Championships in the same year, he was thrown around positionally in his three matches for Vic Metro, and coach Heath Black believes he approached the challenge maturely.
“He adapted very well to every division of the ground,” Black said.
“That could have thrown someone, and you’ve got to give the recruiters a good understanding of players playing in different positions but when you’re tall and still developing to be thrown around like that, he should be commended for it.
Gentlemanly. Intellectual. Polite. Perceptive. Quiet. Self-aware. Those are the sort of words used to describe the 201cm prospect.
Cricket, little athletics and nippers were the other activities Visentini tried as a kid, winning six consecutive nippers championships at Elwood.
He was a shy junior footballer, but dad, Paul, says he always had the assertiveness.
“Dante was a kid who went to Auskick but didn’t move to go near the ball, 'what am I doing here dad type kid',” Paul said.
“But he grew into it, a back pocket of sorts but what he did have was he was really competitive. Good endurance, fast sprinter. He would run with a grimace on his face running hard every time he competed.
“He didn’t start early and have the exquisite skills at age eight, nine, 10, but he just would run through people, strongly. He was well known for his power out of there."
His journey thereafter was linear. His physicality was on display as he earnt selection for representative teams, including the under 12’s Victorian Schoolboys team and the aforementioned Under 16’s Vic Metro team.
His athletic grounding still permeates today and it was a standout as a junior ruck rover and wingman.
But 2019 was the year that he shot up and started grabbing games by the scruff of the neck.
In tomorrow's edition of 'Dragon Tales', we'll learn how training amongst the fellow talls at the Dragons helped fuel his competitive fire.