After being drafted with pick No.14 in the 2019 mid-season rookie draft, Collingwood’s John Noble uprooted his life and moved from South Australia to Melbourne to fulfil this AFL dream. The 22-year-old defender made his AFL debut in the Magpies’ thrilling one-point win over West Coast on the weekend. Noble took the opportunity to reflect on his first AFL experience.
Since arriving at Collingwood in the mid-season draft, my experience has been overwhelming.
So much has happened in such a short period of time, so when I found out I would be making my AFL debut last weekend it was a mix of excitement, happiness and relief.
When ‘Bucks’ (Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley) pulled me aside before our team meeting, he was smiling.
I had a sense it was going to be good news but to hear it from him that I would be playing my first game was pretty special.
When I came to the club I wanted to focus on putting my best foot forward and earn the respect of the whole club from the playing group, through to the coaches, administration and support staff.
To come in halfway through the year is unique and I knew that these boys had been together through an entire pre-season and longer so, coming in, I wanted to be like a gel and mould to the foundations that the group had already laid for this year and try to work my way towards playing senior footy.
Of course, making my debut this year was a goal, but was it expected? Absolutely not!
I focused on going about my business the way I normally do and if something was to come of it then it would be a bonus – you take those opportunities as they come.
When I first came to Melbourne I lived with ‘Tay’ (Taylor Adams) and he was instrumental in helping me settle in and showing me the ropes.
Since then, I’ve moved in with a close friend of mine from back home – Will Snelling – who was picked up by Essendon in the mid-season draft.
We’re renting a place together and although I’m starting to settle into life in Melbourne, I don’t think I will get used to the traffic!
It’s taken some time to adjust but being at a club like Collingwood, who focus themselves on family values, has helped my transition enormously.
I’d only played three VFL games before moving into the senior side and so I didn’t have an inkling that my first AFL appearance was looming.
To be perfectly honest, I was focusing on playing ‘Willy’ (Williamstown) in the VFL!
In the AFL you really have to work your way into a team, so it was a bit of a surprise being still so new to the club but an equally rewarding experience.
Having played against the Western Australian state team earlier this year for South Australia, it was the second time I had run out onto Optus Stadium, which helped to settle the nerves.
I was comfortable with the ground knowing that I’d already played there but I don’t think anything can prepare you for the hostile WA crowd.
Although it was a bit intimidating it was an unbelievable feeling being out there with my teammates.
Once you’re out there though you’re just thinking about the job at hand.
When the final siren went there was a bit of relief.
Naturally, there was also a lot of excitement, adrenaline and energy but it felt like there was a weight lifted.
My pathway has been a bit different to the traditional one when you get drafted at 18 and come straight into the AFL system.
It was amazing and a dream come true to finally get drafted, let alone play a senior AFL game and achieve a win in my first game.
The whole experience has been unreal, to be honest.
To share my debut game with my family was incredible.
The support of my parents has been massive and it was really special to share that moment with them.
They’ve been amazing role models for myself and my siblings, Mark and Jess. They’ve brought us up to have elite standards in whatever we do, whether it’s sport or pursuing our career.
They’ve been terrific and to share that moment with them was something very special and I’ll remember it forever.