The Devil's leap: Arie Schoenmaker's rise from purgatory to first-round fancy

No draft prospect has come from further back this year than Arie Schoenmaker.

Busted with alcohol at a Tassie Devils camp, the Launceston teen was relegated to the Tasmanian State League for the first 10 games of his draft year.

After what he described as a 'poor' 2022, recruiters had shifted their attention away from the Apple Isle defender with the fabled left boot, their wide-cast nets leaving Arie out of Allies contention.

Where others would give up on their dream, Schoenmaker instead did everything he could to earn back the trust of his coaches and teammates. Fast forward six months, and the competitive defender is on the precipice of first round selection in the 2023 AFL Draft.

"It was really tough for me, for the program and for my family as well," Schoenmaker told ESPN, reflecting on his club imposed 10-game suspension at the beginning of the season.

Schoenmaker would go on to write down the values he wanted to instil in himself -- a change his Mum suggested and a practice he continues today -- and after 10 long weeks he was back in the Coates Talent League with the Devils.

He wasted no time making good on his reprieve.

In his return game Schoenmaker dominated, enjoying 36 disposals, nine intercept possessions, one goal and a whopping 237 ranking points against the GWV Rebels. He used his remarkable left boot to the tune of 19 rebound 50s, blasting the ball over the Rebels zone time and time again.

It was the culmination of his unique trait; at 194 centimetres, Schoenmaker can play on tall forwards and intercept with the best defenders in the country. But it's with ball in hand where his skillset comes to the fore.


Within three games Schoenmaker was back in the draft frame, and it wasn't just recruiters taking notice. Allies coach Mark McVeigh knew of his prodigious left boot, and he saw an opportunity for the Launceston native to make his mark further up the ground.

"'Spike' gave me a buzz going into game two and pretty much said 'We'd be stoked to have you in'," Schoenmaker recalled with a smile.

"The Allies had a super strong back six and they were pretty set, so Spike wanted to use my left boot on a wing going forward rather than coming out of D50.

"I've always been able to run pretty well, so I was able to run the wing and use my leg."

In the first 10 minutes of the Allies' clash with Vic Metro, Schoenmaker gathered the ball 55 metres from goal, tight up against the left flank boundary. He took one look, loaded up and off two steps punched the ball through the goals at half-post height.

Setting sail from there would be a foolish decision for all bar a select few. But it was the most natural of decisions for Schoenmaker, and the precise execution you'd come to expect of unique talent.

Schoenmaker averaged 23.6 kicks per game, six more than any other player in the Coates Talent League. It's the weapon that may get his name called out on the first night of the draft, and he knows it.

"I know that's my one wood, and if we want to win games as a group the ball's got to be in my hands," Schoenmaker candidly told ESPN.

"It's on me along with the back six to create something through the middle and create a chain that results in goals."

It's a moment that stuck in the mind of McVeigh, who spoke to ESPN off the back of Schoenmaker's stunning campaign.

"He hadn't had a great run with Tassie," McVeigh admitted.

"When I got him in the team and we had match committee, everyone was saying 'Yeah he'll be great off halfback', and I replied 'I'm not playing him off halfback'.

"They all looked around at me, and I said 'I'm going to play him on the wing, everyone's pumping up his left foot and I want that going in our front half. We've got firepower up there, imagine him kicking it 60 metres into our front half'.

"That first game [against Vic Metro], he comes in, he kicks two pretty amazing goals, one from 60 that's near impossible to kick. He's just got that weapon, it's one of the best kicks in the country."

A month ago Schoenmaker had been plying his trade in the TSL. Those two Allies performances had put him back on the map. It was a campaign that furthered his standing amongst his peers as well, including burgeoning Tassie stars Colby McKercher, Ryley Sanders, and James Leake.

Schoenmaker's name now sits comfortably alongside those top-10 fancies. He went on to average 27 disposals and six marks, establishing himself as the best ball user out of defensive 50 in the country.

Schoenmaker doesn't know when he'll have his name called out on draft, or where he's headed. But he does know he's done everything possible to turn his year around and give himself the best possible opportunity of making his AFL dream a reality.