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Anatomy of a debut — Callum Wilkie

After being drafted with pick 3 in the 2018 AFL rookie draft, St Kilda’s Callum Wilkie uprooted his life and moved from South Australia to Melbourne to fulfil his AFL dream. The 22-year-old intercept defender made his AFL debut in the Saints thrilling one-point win over the Gold Coast over the weekend. Wilkie took the opportunity to reflect on his first AFL experience.

It’s been a big five months since the AFL draft.

I didn’t expect to be making my debut so soon but with a few injuries down back, part of me knew there was always going to be a chance.

It was an overwhelming feeling when Richo told me I’d be playing.

He told me a few days before the game after match committee and told me to go out and play my natural game and to my strengths.

Richo reassured me that he wouldn’t have picked me if he didn’t think I was ready for it.

Although I’d played a bit during the JLT Community Series, I still thought I was maybe one or two defenders next in line.

When Dylan Roberton unfortunately went down with his heart condition I thought that was probably going to be a bit of a bittersweet opening for me to fill that void in some way.

Not quite to the extent Dylan does though!

From that moment I thought I was a chance but not until Richo gave me the news did it really sink in.

It’s been a whirlwind few months but it has been an awesome experience.

St Kilda have been accommodating in facilitating the move and helping to make the transition as smooth as possible.

They helped with everything so that I was able to keep most of my focus on footy.

I was keen to move to an interstate club if I was going to be picked up during the draft period.

Moving interstate has provided a really good experience to step out of my comfort zone and know that I’m able to focus on footy 24/7 here, away from other distractions.

Running out onto Marvel Stadium for the first time was awesome.

I went out there when it was empty and had a look around and spent time to take it all in.

Running out there with the stadium filled with 20,000, mostly Saints fans, it was an amazing feeling.

That was when it all started to sink in and I thought, ‘yeah, this is the AFL.’

My game day nerves weren’t too bad.

I’m a fairly laidback, easy-going guy so I try to keep everything as simple as possible.

Deep in the last quarter when the scores were level, I was so focused on the next contest I didn’t really have time to think about it.

When the siren went there was a massive feeling of relief and excitement that we were able to come away with a win.

To be able to celebrate the win with teammates, family and some friends as well that came over from Adelaide was really special.

It was good to have them in Melbourne and show them my life over here which they haven’t seen too much of.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to play AFL and it was a bit of a relief to finally be drafted and make my debut.

I’m so thankful to the St Kilda Football Club for taking a chance on me.