In a room bustling with more than 100 of the AFL’s freshest new faces, there’s one who stands out from the pack.
Even if Greater Western Sydney hadn’t selected Tom Boyd with the first pick in the 2013 National Draft, his 201cm, 102kg frame would still draw plenty of attention. But the 2014 AFL Players’/AFL Induction Camp might be the last time Boyd is seen as the big fish in a small pond.
After a year in which his talents were analysed forensically, he’ll soon be an AFL player rather than a football prodigy in waiting. Just like the footy-watching public, he can’t wait for it to finally begin.
“Obviously with the first intra-club in three and a half weeks, I’m just really excited to being out there to start playing some footy, which is ultimately what we get paid to do and what I’ve always wanted to do,” he says.
“I’m really looking forward to getting out on the ground and playing against AFL players.”
— AFL Players (@AFLPlayers) January 13, 2014
There’s been plenty of discussion about how exactly that might work, with Greater Western Sydney’s key forward stocks already well resourced thanks to Jeremy Cameron and Jonathon Patton.
In Tuesday’s The Age Jon Pierik wrote; “Tom Boyd is confident he and fellow talls Jonathon Patton and Jeremy Cameron can work as a multi-pronged set-up”, while on afl.com.au Ben Guthrie quoted Boyd as saying the Giants face an “interesting dilemma” in trying to fit all three players into one forward line.
The former Eastern Ranges and Vic Metro key forward isn’t sure how it will all work, but knows it isn’t his job to figure it out.
“I don’t know if we’ll all be able to play in the same forward line, but at the moment I’m just learning as much off them as I can,” Boyd says, adding that Jeremy Cameron has proved particularly helpful in his development so far.
“I haven’t spent too much time with Patto, but Jez and I have been working a bit together in the forward line and it doesn’t take long to see why he’s such a good player.
“He’s got a supreme amount of talent and the way he trains sets a really good standard as well. It’s been really interesting to see what makes him tick and also trying to pick up a few things at the same time.”
Having been at the Giants for almost two months now, Boyd knows his teammates well and is enjoying spending time amongst the playing group. The fact that 30 of the Giants’ 46 senior-listed players are aged 22 or younger makes for a “fun” environment but also presented a challenge – at least, initially.
Boyd points out 2013 was “the first traditional draft year”, in the Giants’ short history. In order to build the list from scratch the club was given special concessions during the 2011 and 2012 drafts.
“Many of those boys were picked in a group of 12 or 13 other draftees and they were pretty tight-knit, so it was sometimes a little bit difficult to work your way into it,” Boyd admits.
“To their credit they’ve been really welcoming and all us new guys have settled in really well. It’s good to be around a group of guys who are a similar age and have just gone through similar issues and successes that we’re experiencing at the moment.”
Though the hype and media attention that surrounded Boyd during 2013 was extreme, fellow number-one draft picks Jonathon Patton and Lachie Whitfield had comparable experiences in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
The Giants are the newest team in the AFL but are already well versed in managing expectations for young players. While most footy scribes are predicting big things for Boyd this season, his personal goals are fairly modest.
“I’ve set goals in terms of my fitness and what I’d like to work on, but nothing in terms of games or goals or any of that kind of stuff,” he says.
“I try to stick to the process of how I need to improve rather than focusing on what the ultimate success is going to be. I start with the small things and will just work my way through. Hopefully I debut at some point this year and take it from there.”
While Boyd is clearly physically gifted, he also seems mentally prepared for a life in the AFL spotlight. With the Giants’ first NAB Challenge game – against the Swans at StarTrack Oval on Thursday, February 20 – little over a month away, the wait is almost over.