It can be a crystallising moment when a draftee meets his new, highly-credentialed teammates. Swept up in the whirlwind of entering the AFL industry, you could understand a degree of stargazing as idols suddenly become peers.
Gold Coast Suns recruit Brayden Fiorini has experienced arguably the AFL’s most distinguished version of the transition, enjoying a personal rendezvous with champion Gary Ablett.
“Gazza is a legend, he’s even nicer than what you see on TV,” Fiorini told aflplayers.com.au.
“He’s just lovely – so friendly and helpful, and such a leader” – Brayden Fiorini on Gary Ablett
“He took me out for breakfast before Christmas, one-on-one, which was good. I got to know him a bit.”
“He’s just lovely – so friendly and helpful, and such a leader.”
Chosen with pick No.20 in the 2015 National Draft, Fiorini could conceivably line-up alongside the Suns skipper in the middle of the ground during the 2016 season.
While such an exciting prospect could be a major motivator, the 18-year-old is firmly focused on more immediate stepping-stones.
“I haven’t put a number on how many games (in the senior team). I’ve sat down with a few of the coaches and just went through a few more short-term goals and I’ll let the long-term take care of itself.”
“Stay fit, keep out on the track, put on some weight – I’ve put on a couple of kg’s, which is good so far. Hopefully I’ll get a NAB Challenge game and go from there.”
The Northern Knights product developed a harder edge to complement his damaging disposal in the latter half of last season, notably burrowing in for six clearances during his first extended go in the guts against North Ballarat in the TAC Cup.
His progression into a well-rounded midfielder comes having previously played largely as a line-breaking accumulator on the flanks and wings. Fiorini says his game has required work and evolved greatly during his Knights days, with even his major assets changing over time.
“I had an awkward kicking style when I was younger, so I worked on it a fair bit.”
“I used to be a forward so I didn’t used to run and carry (as much), that’s come into my game lately, which is good.”
The drafting process hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the Suns’ second selection, behind pick No.8 Callum Ah Chee. A strained achilles in pre-season last year, a broken hand in his Vic Metro debut and a broken toe in his watershed match against North Ballarat hampered any hopes of continuity.
Encountering adversity and proving capable of handling the consequences speaks volumes of Fiorini’s character. While nobody wants to be familiar with the medical rooms, the left-footer believes he has developed a tolerance for battling through ailments and is adapting to the rigours of an AFL program.
“(I’ve had to show) a bit of persistence. I’ve had a fair few injuries so I’m sort of used to it.”
“Little niggles and stuff like that you’ve just got to push through. You can always play with a bit of pain.
“The body’s coping well (with pre-season). I had some groin soreness and different things, I suppose getting used to all the training, the weights and all that stuff. But I feel comfortable and I’m loving it.”
You can follow Brayden Fiorini on Instagram @braydenfiorini