Tom Doedee had to wait a while for his first opportunity. The 17th selection in the 2015 draft failed to debut for the Crows in his first two years, but is making up for lost time in 2018. The Rising Star nominee from Round 2 sat down with AFLPlayers.com.au to discuss his basketball background, the switch to football and his life away from the spotlight.
It was a disappointing result for the club on Sunday, but that was a fair chase down on Michael Walters…
Yeah, it wasn’t the ideal result. I just put my head down and went for it and was lucky enough to end up grabbing him.
What were the last few years like waiting in the wings to debut?
It was frustrating, especially last year which was more frustrating than my first year. I felt the first year was more about my development, and then last year I felt I was ready to go but wasn’t getting the opportunity. Although when the team is winning like they were it means the best 22 was pretty stacked. I knew my time would come, and it has definitely been worth the wait.
Speaking of your development and learning, what sorts of things were you working on in the SANFL considering you made a late start to footy?
I was learning everything, to be honest. Coming from basketball I wasn’t too well versed in the smaller things of football like skills and game plans and knowing when to do what. I wasn’t sure when to leave my man to intercept and when to go for a kick. Those two years helped me there and I also benefitted in learning the new system going from under-18s and the TAC Cup which is pretty basic compared to an AFL system.
I know you tried to make it in basketball and played a lot of it growing up, but how much football did you play?
I started football when I was 16, and then I played two years at my local club and juggled that with basketball at the same time. Then when I was in my top age year at the under-18s I decided to quit basketball and give footy a crack at the Geelong Falcons and ended up getting drafted from there. I played three years before I was picked up.
Were you pretty stunned that you went in the first round considering the limited amount of football you had played?
Yeah, and because of what I was told before the draft. My family were more surprised than I was!
What were you told before the draft? Was there a range you expected to go in?
I just thought it would be a little bit later than that. I was told that I had a pretty wide range, but it wasn’t specified what that range was. Some players would have been given concrete answers about where they were going, but I was told that there was a pretty broad and wide range. I just wasn’t aware that the start of the range included the first round.
Hamish Ogilvie has a history of finding diamonds in the rough. Can you remember the first time he came and watched you play or reached out?
Yeah, I can. I was sitting in class at school and I had my phone in my pencil case and I received a text message and opened it up and sure enough it was Hamish Ogilvie. He said, ‘Hi mate, we’d like to come down for an interview sometime this week.’ It was after I’d played a few TAC Cup games, so that kick-started things with the Crows. There were about three interviews with them before I was picked up.
I hope you didn’t get in trouble for reading your phone in class…
Haha! No, I was in the clear because the teacher I had was pretty lenient towards his favourite students. I was able to get away with it.
How strongly did you pursue your basketball? Was college basketball a genuine option?
I started playing at age six, and it was from about 11 or 12 that I started playing representatively in Geelong, and it was around that time that my goal was to play college ball. I was pretty solely focused on that and I was looking at specific subjects to ensure that I could get over there and the sorts of colleges I would want to go to. Following that, I played basketball for Vic Country in the 18s championships and didn’t get the recruiting that I was hoping for and I had a good year in footy and thought it was worth a go. My thought process was that I could always come back to basketball.
Have you had any one-on-one battles with Hugh Greenwood yet?
No, we both have received a few injuries throughout the years — me with my knee and his Achilles — so we’re not allowed to play too much basketball outside the club. Maybe in the off-season we will. He would towel me up, he’s pretty damn good! He has a solid all-round game and he is a better shooter than me. I’d have to take it to the rack and draw some fouls.
You were a point guard, weren’t you?
Yeah, I was my whole basketball life. I had a growth spurt when I was about 15 that made me a taller point guard, but I was always small growing up.
What’s the background to your surname?
It’s a Dutch name from my dad’s side.
Are the commentators pronouncing it correctly?
I don’t really know because I haven’t really watched a lot of myself playing, but my family are telling me that they’re starting to get it right.
It wouldn’t be like Brian Taylor to deliberately mess up someone’s name…
Haha! He’d get something out of it.
Back to the basketball theme, did you have any heroes from growing up and watching the sport on TV?
Not really. I’ve never really latched onto one player like LeBron or Kobe. I never grew up with jerseys for specific players. I just watched and enjoyed the game and when I first started playing, NBL was near its peak and that was always good to watch, especially the likes of Lanard Copeland from the Melbourne Tigers. But yeah, I never really latched onto someone and viewed them as my role model, I just watched lots of it and at different levels — from NBA to NBL etc.
What’s been the biggest learning from playing consistent AFL for the first time in your life?
Probably just cementing my role in the team and knowing when it is my time to go and when it is my time to hold and when it’s my time to get body on smaller forwards who are looking to crumb. When I was in the SANFL, I had more of a license to just go for everything, whereas now I’m playing on blokes who know that I am going to jump and that I can stay down and read the ball a bit better. Knowing when I need to go, when I need to stay down and when I can help the team has been the biggest learning so far.
Who are the players you are gravitating towards?
A little bit of everyone in the backline, basically. Both Talia and Hartigan have helped me with advice for when I play on a bigger body because they have done it for a long time now. Luke Brown is one of the best smaller defenders in the league and we saw that over the weekend so I work with him a bit. Lairdy and Smithers have provided advice around running and carrying also, so I’m just trying to get pieces from everyone.
Do you see yourself playing defence forever? Or could you move into the midfield?
I’ve got no idea! I’m just trying to focus on my role at the moment. Whatever is in the future can wait, I’m sticking to defence and trying to master that craft.
What are you doing away from the footy field?
I study communications and media at the University of South Australia. I’m pretty into my movies and TV — I love movies and how they’re made and what goes into them. I wanted to start studying something so I chose that, but I’m still not sure exactly what I want to do, whether I want to go into the media side or communications side. I don’t get up to much more other than that. I use my off days to relax and rest up for the week.
What sorts of movies do you watch? Do you have a genre of choice?
Anything good! I’m not massive on the superhero, high CGI and things like that. I’m more into Scorsese and that sort of stuff. I watched a Charlie Chaplin movie the other day because I wanted to see what he got up to in the 1930s and that was interesting.
There’s been a pretty large leap between then and now…
Yeah definitely, and he still did things that we do now that you wouldn’t believe he could think of back then. I don’t have a specific genre, as long as it’s not super reliant on CGI and crap like that.
At the club are there teammates you can discuss this stuff with, or are you left alone as a movie buff/critic?
Yeah, there’s a lot of movie lovers but a lot like the superhero movies like Thor and the Avengers and all that, especially Hugh Greenwood who calls himself ‘Thor’ a bit. There’s not many who watch the old-school stuff that I tend to enjoy.
Awesome, Tom. I really enjoyed the chat. Good luck for the rest of the season.