Leading up to the 2018 AFL Draft – and similar to how I carry myself now – it was about putting in as much effort as possible and being open to any and all opportunities.
I tried not to worry too much, especially about the things that were out of my control, and instead focussed on enjoying the end of school and time with my friends, knowing that it was likely I would be leaving Victoria.
It was a quick turnaround once I was drafted to Sydney with pick No. 25 in that year’s AFL Draft. In a matter of days I was on a plane and then in my new home in Sydney, preparing for my first AFL pre-season.
There’s no denying it’s a whirlwind experience and there can be some challenges as you get used to your ‘new normal’, but there’s great support networks around you as a young player to help smooth out the transition period.
Sydney’s player welfare managers, who were in Melbourne throughout the draft period, eased any concerns my family and I had about the move and made sure I was able to settle in.
As an 18-year-old, I was so happy that I’d fulfilled my dream of making it onto an AFL list and so I made sure to embrace every second of the experience.
When I first moved to Sydney, one of the things that I found helpful with my transition was doing as much as possible with my new teammates.
At the Swans, you could say we’re fortunate that so many of our players have had to move interstate because there are plenty of people around you in the same situation or have been through it before.
We spent plenty of time together as a young group and did everything that we could to bond and become close mates.
As a club, we took every opportunity to get to know each other so that the new players felt comfortable around the senior guys in the side.
It can feel like a big jump going from under-18s football to an elite AFL program.
The process from getting drafted, to moving to Sydney, and joining pre-season training, happened so fast that I didn’t really have time to think about what was going on.
Instead, you just have to take it all in your stride and think, ‘Whatever happens, happens.’
As tough as pre-seasons do feel, do your best to enjoy every moment.
As a young player (or any player on the list), you have an incredible opportunity to be in a professional environment and learn from the best.
For me, to train alongside the likes of Luke Parker and Josh Kennedy was, and still is, incredible. They’ve supported me so much in developing my game and allowed me to better understand the lifestyle required to be an athlete.
I’ve been fortunate that my career (so far) has not been shaped by injury or challenging moments, and instead I’ve been able to embrace the highs from my first two seasons.
Getting drafted was a feeling of elation, which translated to starting my career and settling into the club.
You’re on the lower rungs of the pecking order and need to earn your stripes.
But, it’s all worth it for those ‘firsts’: my first game, my first win and my first goal.
You’ll notice changes as you enter each pre-season, too.
As you’re in the system longer, you’ll find yourself getting in a bigger body of work.
2020 was quite different to a normal season, as we know, but it also presented an opportunity for me to spend more time refining my skills and working on my fitness during the season shutdown.
Don’t be disheartened if it takes you a while to get going.
Eventually, you’ll progress and you’ll start to find your place in the team and know what’s required of you each week to play your role effectively.
A big part of that for me was starting to trust myself and my ability more and really grasping what role the team needed me to play.
As you return from your Christmas break the games will start to roll around quickly.
It’s difficult to come straight into a program following the draft, especially while you’re still learning the ropes, but if you can make the most of every opportunity available to you, you’ll be putting yourself in the best position possible to push for selection.
Enjoy being part of your new environment and good luck as you embark on your AFL career.