Exciting, eye-catching and flashy are words commonly used to describe Jamie Elliott.
But looking past the Collingwood small forward’s abundance of natural talent, it’s clear to see he’s had to overcome a lot to fulfil his AFL dream.
In what could have been his draft year, Elliott was a brash 18-year-old who believed he was destined to make it into the AFL system, regardless of how he acted.
Featured during Channel Seven’s footy coverage, Elliott said his foolishness led to the ultimate disappointment.
“Looking back, I was a pretty shit kid,” Elliott said.
“Mum was working a couple of jobs. I wasn’t going to footy training and was getting told I was going to make it. I was a bit naive back then and thought it was just going to happen.
“I tested at the state combine and ran a [level] 10 beep [test]. I think it worse than the ruckmen, so that was no good and I didn’t get drafted.”
Staying in his home town of Euroa some 160 kilometres north of Melbourne, Elliott was given another chance by the Murray Bushrangers in the TAC Cup after they invited him back for the 2011 season as a top-aged player.
But another setback loomed. The small forward booted 10 goals from his five matches in a promising start before going against the advice of the club’s coaches, playing for his local side during the competition’s bye round and breaking his collarbone in a collision with another player.
But missing the rest of the season proved to be a blessing in disguise. A few home truths helped Elliott realise he wouldn’t make it to the big time if he continued the same way.
“I used to love the entertainment the speckies and hangers brought when I was watching” – Jamie Elliott
“That was basically my turning point. I had a couple of sit downs with a couple of blokes from Euroa and they basically said that I have to pull my finger out,” Elliot said.
“So I put in an action plan. I had three months to get fit and had the goal of getting a 14 beep and I eventually got to where I wanted to be.”
But an overly confident persona wasn’t the only challenge the 22-year-old faced before getting to Collingwood.
At the age of 13, Elliott lost his father to cancer after a three-year battle with the disease.
Elliott didn’t cope well with the loss of his father, a role-model and person who had a big influence on his footy career, and went through a rebellious phase.
A few years on, the pocket-rocket uses the memory of his father as motivation for his football and personal development.
“I think the biggest drive for me football-wise is probably my dad. When I think about him and growing up, I was involved with him a lot, I loved playing footy and he drove that for me.
“At an early age I started Auskick and he used to drive me down and kick with me all the time. I just wanted to succeed and make him proud, as well as my family. He really drives me and makes me want to be the best player and person I can be.”
Collingwood couldn’t be any more impressed with Elliott’s development. It’s easy to forget he’s in just his fourth season at AFL level and has played only 64 games.
The powerfully-built Pie has steadily improved throughout his short career, establishing himself in Collingwood’s line-up in 2012 before playing 20 games and finishing 10th in the club’s best and fairest the following season.
While playing arguably the toughest role in the competition, the 178cm small forward brought a new-found consistency to go along with an extended highlights package in 2014.
“If I can find consistent footy leading into next year then hopefully I can set myself up to, one day, become a leader” – Jamie Elliott
He went goalless only twice throughout his 17 matches, which included two bags of four majors and one haul of five for the year and saw him place sixth in the club’s best and fairest award at season’s end.
Taking his game to another level this season, Elliott has booted five majors twice so far in 2015, all of which came in the second-half during Rounds 8 and 9 in a year that could see him picked as an All-Australian for the first time.
No longer a human highlight-reel, the high-flyer says he still tries to jump at the ball instinctively when the opportunity presents itself.
“I’m always looking for it but I think it’s just choosing the right time to fly,” Elliott said.
“I used to love the entertainment the speckies and hangers brought when I was watching it and what really made me love the game was the excitement it brings. So if I can bring that then I’m happy… But I also want to be a really consistent player.”
Reliability on the field is a trait Elliott holds in high regard, particularly because he wants to become a club leader.
“I’ve been doing little bits and pieces behind the scenes [to improve my leadership skills] but the biggest thing I come back to is performance on game day. If I can find consistent footy leading into next year then hopefully I can set myself up to, one day, become a leader.”