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A survival guide to the AFL Draft Combine

Ahead of the AFL Draft Combine, North Melbourne midfielder Will Walker gives his best tips on how to prepare and survive the rigorous four days at the Combine. Walker experienced the Draft Combine last year, and was selected with pick 23 in the national draft.

How to prepare for physical testing:

You’ve got five main areas of physical testing: the jumps, the sprints, agility testing, the YoYo test and the 2km time trial.

The two biggest ones that you want to be prepared for though are the endurance ones: the YoYo test and the 2km time trial.

For me, I had never done a 2km time trial before and so my biggest tip would be to actually go out and do one beforehand! It’s important to know what time you can run 2km in, how to properly pace yourself and also to know what time per lap you want to be looking for.

If you’re like me and haven’t done one before it’s OK, writing the times you want to run per lap on your hand and then wearing a watch can help you try and stick as close to that time as possible and also give you a good indication of where you want to be at.

With the YoYo test, I was feeling more prepared. I had done a trial run before with my Sandringham Dragons teammates to get a feel for it so I knew how I needed to run, at what pace I needed to run it, how much of a break I got between intervals and to get an idea of how the actual test works. It is quite a new test, this year is only the second year, so watching videos online of the YoYo test will give you a really good indication of what you’re in for.

How to prepare for skill testing: 

There are two key skill assessments at the Combine: the Nathan Buckley kicking assessment and the Brad Johnson goal-kicking assessment.

The Combine is held a few weeks after the season ends if your team hasn’t been playing finals so it’s really important to keep your skills up to standard and continue to practice ahead of testing. The best way to keep those skills up to scratch is by working with your coaches and running through it with them so you know what you have to do and can trust your technique.

Before I went to the Combine, I looked up the tests online and watched videos of previous years so I knew how the test worked and could go out and emulate it. I definitely feel like practicing before helped me because you feel you’ve got the upper-hand on a few of the other boys and you’re not focused on the test itself but rather following through with your kick.

How to prepare for one-on-one’s with football departments and the media:

Every year you hear about the weird and wacky questions club recruiters ask potential draftees but for me I only got asked one: who makes your bed in the morning?

As strange as it was, I had to tell them the truth and to be completely honest, I didn’t make my bed.

Certain clubs are looking to test your brain, maybe ask you maths questions or what fruit you think compares to your footballing ability, but in reality all they want to know is who you are as a person and what your character is like.

Be true to yourself. If you don’t make things up and you answer honestly, they can’t catch you out and even if the question appears to trick you at first, you’ll have faith in knowing the answer you gave was honest.

Top three tips for success:

  1. Get around the boys and girls that are there. If you can meet a few new people and get to know some people well it will help to pass the time and you will have someone to talk to that is going through the same thing as you. There is plenty of downtime so if you’ve got someone you can talk to it will make the time go that bit quicker instead of sitting there and twiddling your thumbs.
  2. Take some homework or something to do at night. Like I said before, you have a fair bit of downtime and I was only a month out from my Year 12 exams, so I took some homework to do at night. It helps to pass the time but more importantly it takes your mind away from football to give you a break.
  3. Do everything properly. This is the biggest thing for me, especially because I found I woke up quite sore some mornings. Having a focus on recovery and doing everything properly is really important. There are ice baths, compression gear and massages available so make sure you utilise the facilities you have available to you but also stay hydrated and get enough sleep because you want to make sure your body is right so you can perform optimally.