When Vic Metro’s Under-18 coach David Flood sat down to watch the St Kilda and Geelong match on Saturday night, he couldn’t help but get a sense of déjà vu.
While watching, former Metro star Jade Gresham kicked one of the goals of the 2016 AFL season, and Flood wasn’t all that surprised by the St Kilda forward’s elusive efforts.
“At Etihad Stadium last year, he kicked a similar goal to what he kicked the other night against the Cats. When I saw that goal the other night, I thought ‘gee, I’ve seen that before’, so those traits are already starting to come out in his AFL footy,” Flood tells Aflplayers.com.au.
*Fast forward to 2.15 minutes to see Jade Gresham’s elusive goal during the Under-18 Championships in 2015.
Gresham, the Round 14 Rising Star nominee after collecting 16 disposals and eight inside 50s in his 10th AFL match, was taken by the Saints with pick 18 in the 2015 draft – a selection that was traded from the Swans as part of the Jake Carlisle deal – following a season where the fleet-footed youngster made the under-18 All-Australian team, won the TAC Coaches’ Award and finished runner-up in the Morrish Medal.
But Flood recalls being impressed with all facets of Gresham’s game even before his star-studded draft season while being part of the Metro squad.
“I remember watching him in a game out at Preston and his hardness around the footy, ability to jump into spots where he probably shouldn’t jump into, he showed a lot of courage and kept his eye on the footy, he had really good poise under pressure and could kick a goal, had nice skills, you name it, he could do it. He was a pretty special young player.”
Gresham also captained the Northern Knights at TAC Cup level in 2015 while also being one of the leaders of the Vic Metro team and Flood says leadership was a big part of Gresham’s game during the elite junior program.
“He was a leader right from the word go with the Vic Metro boys last year. He’s one of those guys that lets his footy do the talking but my first impression was that he was a strong footballer and strong character kid who was determined to get the best out of himself.
“In terms of his leadership, he chose to lead from the front even though he wasn’t the official captain. If I remember rightly, Jade was certainly in the leadership group. He was just so consistent throughout all the games he played with us both on and off the field.
“To see him progress so much this year just shows the character of the lad.”
Flood says Gresham played mostly a midfielder throughout the under-18s championships, although he spent a bit of time up forward and also in defence at different stages.
While featuring as a small forward in the early part of his AFL career, the 18-year-old has the capacity to develop into a midfielder with the ability to play on the inside and outside.
Flood also believes there is one skill that separates Gresham from the rest and catapults him into an elite category.
“Kids like Jade, the thing that makes them standout apart from their footy nous is their footwork. He just has that ability to give himself that little extra bit of time and, if you have good footwork, you can usually see your teammates and opposition around you which is a really good skill to have.
“That’s usually one of the things that’s different between good players and great players and we saw in him at the under-18 level.”
And while Gresham stands at only 177cm, Flood says the beauty of Australian football is the need for so many attributes within each team.
“It continues to show that kids of all shapes and sizes can get an opportunity to play AFL footy. They don’t all have to be six feet tall and the perfect build, good footballers come in all shapes and sizes.”