In junior sport, the bigger kids are usually the best players – they’re stronger, faster and intimidate their regular-sized opponents.
It was a similar case with Melbourne’s Christian Petracca, whose larger frame helped dominate junior competitions as a youngster, according to Demons teammate Angus Brayshaw.
“He’s always been a man-child, even when he was in the under 12s it seemed as though we were playing against a fully grown man,” Brayshaw tells Aflplayers.com.au.
“We’ve known each other for a while now and have been playing footy with and against each other for ages. I think I first came across him in the under 12s with some rep stuff, went through under 16s and have obviously been drafted together, so it’s been a long time now.
“I remember being almost in awe of how big he was and he was obviously an incredible athlete, so there was a bit of ‘I wish he was on my team and not playing against me’ back then.”
While the rest of the kids caught up size-wise, Petracca’s dominance at the lower levels forced the Demons to select him with pick two in the 2014 AFL draft – just one pick ahead of Brayshaw.
Receiving the Round 9 Rising Star nomination, Petracca was forced to sit and watch his mate debut and play 21 games in 2015 while recovering from an ACL reconstruction.
Following a long-awaited AFL debut against St Kilda in Round 6, the 20-year-old has averaged 20 disposals, 4.5 tackles and 5.5 inside 50s per game throughout his first four AFL outings.
Spending all of the 2015 season rehabilitating his knee, Petracca had to learn the hard way about preparation but Brayshaw says he’s now more than up to standard.
“From an off-field perspective, and everyone goes through this, he’s gone through that learning curve in regards to his professionalism as a player.
“The injury probably took a big toll on him mentally but it’s a testament to the sort of character he is that he was able to stay positive when others might not have and nail his rehab.
“He had a few hiccups along the way but the amount of work he put in it was a real tick for his professionalism. Obviously he’s learnt a lot about how professional he needs to be and he’s showing how much he values each game with the performances he’s been putting in.
“He’s really been improving on all the extra stuff to make sure he’s able to compete. He had a whole year of learning that sort of stuff last year so that’s been reflected in how well he’s playing, his preparation is now at a really high standard and it’s something he’s continually working on.”
Brayshaw says the powerfully built midfielder/forward couldn’t wipe the smile from his face after learning of his nomination.
But while Petracca’s bubby and vibrant personality is a hit around the club, Brayshaw admits there’s an aspect that can get a bit annoying.
“He’ll deny it but he loves to call himself CP5 because he seems to think he is a basketballing jet. I think that’s why he changed from number 26 to number five so he could be like Chris Paul – who plays for the LA Clippers and whose nickname is CP3.”
Petracca is the Demons 39th Rising Star nominee since the award’s inception in 1993 – the most of any club – and is the third Demon to receive the gong this season behind Clayton Oliver and James Harmes.
Two Demons have won the award – Jared Rivers (2004) and Jesse Hogan (2015).
Total club Rising Star nominations:
- Melbourne – 39
- Essendon – 37
- West Coast – 35
- Collingwood – 34
- Brisbane Lions – 34
- Western Bulldogs – 34
- Hawthorn – 33
- Richmond – 32
- Geelong – 29
- Fremantle – 28
- Carlton – 28
- Port Adelaide – 27
- Adelaide – 26
- St Kilda – 24
- Sydney – 24
- North Melbourne – 23
- GWS Giants – 15
- Gold Coast – 11
- Fitzroy – 6
- Brisbane Bears – 5