Following a terrific debut season, Sydney’s Callum Mills has been named the 2016 Best First Year Player, presented by Tissot.
Mills was plucked from the Swans’ academy after spending his junior days with the Mosman Swans and North Shore where he also played rugby union.
Taken with pick three in the 2015 draft, Mills made an immediate impact, slotting seamlessly into the Swans’ defence for their Round 1 clash against Collingwood, given he had limited experience in the role previously.
“I had never played in defence before. I might’ve played a half against the Murray Bushranges in the under-18s but that was about it,” Mills told Aflplayers.com.au.
“John Longmire told me pretty early on that I’ll be playing defence this season to see how I go. I knew Rhys Shaw left so there was a bit of a void to fill, so I put my hand up and was lucky enough to get a spot in Round 1 which I was stoked about.
“I think I’ll continue to do my apprenticeship in the backline and if I get the nod than I’ll be happy to venture into the midfield.”
While he made the step up to AFL level look easy, Mills admits it wasn’t all smooth sailing early days.
He credits the Academy and a club mentor for making the transition to a full-time footballer as easy as possible for him.
“Pre-season was still a shock but I was a bit conditioned coming through the Academy system compared to a few of the other boys. It was a hard slog but good to get through to the other end.
“Jarrad McVeigh is my mentor, but in think the whole back six really mentor each other in a way. I knew had a lot to learn and they helped guide me in the right direction and yap at me to get into position, so I’m grateful for them and what they’ve done for me.
“Jarrad’s a great leader and I think even everyone outside the football club can see that and he’s a great person as well, which is the main thing.”
Mills becomes the ninth player to complete the Best First Year Player and Rising Star double in the same season, joining the likes of Adam Goodes (1999), Joel Selwood (2007) and Dyson Heppell (2011) to win both awards.
He played 20 matches in his first season, averaging 19 disposals and three rebounds per game while displaying enormous courage in the air.
He received 328 votes for the Best First Year Player Award, 191 votes ahead of Essendon’s Darcy Parish, with Carlton’s Jacob Weitering rounding out the top three.
And while his career may already be tracking along the same lines as the stars of the competition, he admits humility is important in this game.
“You can never get complacent. As soon as you do that you get smacked down pretty quickly. If you start playing your own game instead of team football, it becomes much harder and you’ll go alright if you play within the structures.
“So I try and stick to defending and that’s about it – strap my shoulder to my head and spoil the ball.”
Best First Year Player 2016 – presented by Ladder
1) Callum Mills – 328 votes
2) Darcy Parish – 137 votes
3) Jacob Weitering – 108 votes
4) Jade Gresham – 40 votes
5) Marcus Adams – 30 votes