I was lucky enough to be in Sydney for draft night last year.
I was there with my parents, my nana and one of my sisters — my other sister thought a music festival was more important.
On our table, we had Andrew Brayshaw and his family, Ryan O’Connor the former Sandringham Dragons Talent Manager and Jeremy Barnard, who was the Dragons coach at the time.
In hindsight, having them on our table helped me because as I kept sliding down the board and I could see my family getting more stressed they were a calming influence.
I was fortunate because I had been told before the draft that everyone invited was going to be picked up by an AFL club but once you’re in the room it is still terrifying.
The lead up, as stressful as it was, was probably helped by the fact I had my year 12 exams.
I was able to focus my mind onto something else and not always be consumed by what was happening with the draft.
My path to the AFL was unique.
Before the combine, I wasn’t sure if I would pursue cricket or football but receiving an invite to the national combine was when it hit me that a career in the AFL was possible.
I met with every club except Carlton in the lead-up to the draft which gave me a good indication of the interest I had.
In saying that, you can’t really trust what the recruiters say because you don’t actually know what could happen until the night.
I wasn’t too fussed where I went, I just wanted to hear my name called out.
For me, the draft night was really long — especially because I kept sliding down the order!
It was a stressful couple of hours, but the best feeling was when Collingwood finally read out my name with pick 39.
They were one of the first clubs I met with.
My manager Liam Pickering is really good mates with the Collingwood recruiters so I knew that the Pies were one of the keenest.
If Jaidyn Stephenson’s medical didn’t go well, they were going to meet with me and a few other boys on the day of the draft who were in contention for pick 6.
Obviously, Stevo’s medical got the all clear so it was a matter of if I slid to pick 39 or not.
I knew if I did make it that far Collingwood would take me but to be honest I didn’t think that was going to happen.
When you’re invited to the draft you imagine you’re going to be a top 20 pick so it was a nervous wait when my name wasn’t called out.
I’m so thankful Collingwood did draft me.
I genuinely felt that they were the best option for me because I could feel their excitement about who they were drafting and the direction they were taking.
As amazing as hearing my name called out was, the best part of the night for me was being on the table when Hamish was drafted to the West Coast Eagles.
To see how excited his parents were after the journey he has been through was special.
For the boys that are fortunate enough to be drafted, footy is a marathon not a sprint.
While some will come into the system and do well straight away, there will be some of you who don’t play a game in your first year.
If that is you, don’t stress and feel that you’re immediately behind because everyone develops at different rates.
We’ve seen this with players like Brayden Sier who waited 947 days before his debut.
It could happen at any time for you and the only thing that you’re able to control is how you go about your business.
Grab someone who has been in the system for a while and plays a similar role to you and follow them.
Do as much as you can because the coaches notice when you put in time and effort.
For the boys that don’t get picked up, go back to football and give it another crack.
If you can go back and play well it shows the recruiters you’ve got a really good character and your opportunity will come.
It’s not the end of the world, even if it feels like it, because there are so many different avenues to the AFL now.
If you’re willing to put in the effort to get better and if you’re good enough, they will find you and give you your chance.
At the end of the day, footy owes you nothing so don’t expect for it to be handed to you. It’s all in your hands.
Good luck to all the boys who have nominated for this year’s AFL draft.