When Brayden Sier told his Marcellin College coach Vaughan Cleary that he wanted to play in the midfield ahead of his final year at school, Cleary was surprised.
Sier, who was 16 at the time, had been playing as a third tall defender in the first XVIII but according to his coach, he “wasn’t setting the world on fire”.
After an honest conversation at the end of 2014, Sier went away during the preseason and worked on developing his aerobic fitness.
“He got himself in much better condition and came back a lot more confident as a player,” Cleary told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“He had it in his mind that wanted to make the midfield. He really knew what he needed to do when he came to me. He pulled his socks up and has gone and delivered.”
His transition into the midfield is what flew him onto the radar of Collingwood recruiter and Marcellin alum Domenic Milesi.
Sier’s coaching staff knew he had draftable qualities despite not having the usual under-18 pathway and for them, it was about providing him with an opportunity to showcase his talent to recruiters.
“(Milesi) had it in his mind that Brayden was good enough and I reassured him that his radar was good. Brayden absolutely matched it with the best of the best in that year level,” Cleary said.
After a conversation with Collingwood, Cleary made a decision to notify the football team that a recruiter was looking at the players closely.
With this in mind, Sier told AFLPlayers.com.au it was was the kick-start he needed to have confidence in himself and his football after being cut from the Northern Knights’ initial TAC Cup squad.
After a solid season for Marcellin, culminating in a best-and-fairest, Sier played the final two games of the season for the Knights.
“I snuck in late and was lucky enough to get drafted. In the next three or four months it all happened really quickly,” he said.
But getting drafted was only the first hurdle for Sier to overcome as a footballer, as breaking into a strong Magpies midfield proved challenging in his first two seasons.
A combination of unlucky impact injuries to the former pick 32 and a belief from Nathan Buckley that football was not high enough on his priority list saw the midfielder wait 947 days for his debut.
“I think it’s hard to show you are keen when you are on the backburner so much,” Sier said.
“I never thought I couldn’t do it. I was just quietly going about my business and then got forgotten about a little bit there but at my exit interview (Buckley) said he saw a little spark.”
It was that little spark that enabled the untried midfielder to break into Collingwood’s team when a double hamstring injury struck down Adam Treloar.
The big-bodied midfielder grasped his opportunity and is developing into a bona fide AFL player who has been likened to Sydney’s Josh Kennedy.
“It is definitely not the worst comparison you could cop, the bloke is an absolute jet.”
Sier is leading groundball gets for Collingwood this finals series and is averaging 19 disposals, 4.6 tackles and 3.6 clearances across his 11 games.
If you ask those who knew him as a junior, Sier was always going to acquit himself well to life at the elite level.
Marcellin College teacher Ryan Edwards told AFLPlayers.com.au despite Sier being a “cruisy kid” at school, he always had a professional nature and temperament about him, taking on every opportunity available to him.
“Brayden played in our first XI cricket team as a premiership player in his final year,” Edwards said.
“He was a kid who hadn’t really played too much cricket and all of a sudden popped up in year 12 and became one of our best players.”
Cleary believes the professional environment of Marcellin’s sporting teams provided strong role models for Sier to look up to.
The school is no stranger to producing successful AFL players, with a string of well-known players hailing from Melbourne’s north-east, including Sier’s potential opponent this weekend, West Coast midfielder Luke Shuey.
In just his 12th game of AFL, Sier will take to the league’s biggest stage in an effort to repay Buckley for the faith he has shown in him the second half of the year.
“I’ve had a couple of people come up and say it’s not usually this easy to get in a granny but it doesn’t seem too hard, they come around every 10 games or so apparently,” he joked.
The 20-year-old’s happy-go-lucky nature is evident when he reflects on the emotions in the moments after Friday night’s win and what is to come.
“It hasn’t really sunk in, I tend not to take things too seriously until I need to,” he said.
“I’ll cruise around at home, get to the game when I need to and hopefully get a win.”