Harris Andrews has been selected by the AFLPA Board into the 40-man 22Under22 squad. With that in mind, AFLPlayers.com.au takes a look at his rapid growth.
There aren’t many 20-year-old’s like Harris Andrews.
More than 200cm tall, athletic with long arms and legs, Andrews’ stature alone is enough to turn heads, unusual for an AFL footballer in the rugby-obsessed streets of Brisbane.
But it’s not physically where Andrews impresses most. It’s his behaviours that those around him value best.
So much so that the Lions’ key position forward has earned a new nickname by his (slightly) younger housemates, and it’s one that’s catching on around the club.
“We started calling him ‘Dad’ a few months back,” Lions teammate, Hugh McCluggage, told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“He’s a 20-year-old with a 30-year-old’s mannerisms. That’s been picked up by a few other boys and that’s pretty much his nickname now.”
McCluggage and Victorian teammate Jarrod Berry moved in with Andrews the moment they arrived in Brisbane last year — a unique situation given players of Andrews’ life experience don’t often take in first-year players.
It’s a testament to how highly the Lions regard their lanky defender off the field as well as on it.
Despite being a smart-ass from time to time, Andrews is an easy-going guy at home. He’s relatively quiet and measured except when you forget to lock the front door, which McCluggage, a country boy, found out the hard way.
But Andrews’ fiery side has its place and is saved for the training track and on game day.
“He’s very loud. At home, he’s a bit quiet but once he gets out on the track he’s as vocal as they come,” McCluggage added.
“He’s always offering feedback and that’s something all the leaders do but the fact that he’s only 20 surprised me in a good way.
“He wants to see his teammates improve and that’s one of his best qualities.”
Andrews’ competitiveness is a stark contrast to the level-headed kid away from the field and he’s impatient when it comes to improving himself and his teammates.
It’s a competitive edge that’s been evident since he was spotted as a goalkicker in Aspley’s under-18 side.
Luke Curran, Brisbane’s Academy manager, remembers a raw youngster, who, as a late bloomer, knew he had some ground to make up.
“He made an impression with his competitiveness and his determination. He worked hard in all areas and always sought feedback,” Curran said.
“A lot of kids are happy to go through the program, play good footy and enjoy themselves but Harris wanted to take the next step.”
Having a level head was never Andrews’ problem, but being a standout contributor on the field was initially.
By his own admission, the Padua College graduate was just an average player at 16 but after a significant growth spurt, he was able to apply his solid skill base in a key position.
“Kids who are 200cm and can catch it don’t come along very often,” Curran added.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. After joining the state team, his first taste of representative footy was against Oakleigh in the TAC Cup.
Andrews, still a forward at the time, recorded six disposals and failed to impact the scoreboard. He thought his dream was all but over.
“That first TAC Cup game wasn’t a good one and he thought he’d go back to local level and continue on there,” Curran said.
“From our point of view, given he was still a bit of an unknown and it was his first state game, which was a fair step up from Aspley under-18s, we knew there’d be more opportunities to adjust.”
Not one to die wondering, Andrews was motivated by the experience.
In less than four months, the forward was thrown into defence in Queensland’s last TAC Cup game against the Geelong Falcons.
And it’s a game that still sticks in the mind of some AFL recruiters, specifically Brisbane’s who realised they had a talent under their noses.
“Every time he played, he got marginally better but there was a game at Werribee against Geelong where the result was hanging in the balance late and Harris really stood tall,” Brisbane recruiting manager, Stephen Conole recalled.
“He took some strong grabs, courageous ones, where he backed back into packs of players. That’s when we started thinking to ourselves, ‘I think this boy’s going to be a nice player’.”
Recruiters circled but the Lions weren’t going to give up their latest academy project and nabbed with a pick below his market value.
The journey was only beginning and Andrews was thrown into the deep end in his first season, facing a baptism of fire as a Brisbane key position defender.
True to his character, Andrews has not only survived but prospered in his first three AFL seasons, playing 56 games in a backline that’s often under siege — a significant achievement that should turn the heads of AFL pundits.
How often does a player who featured in only two NEAFL games in his draft year miss only eight of 66 in his next three seasons at AFL level?
And 2017 has been the best so far for Andrews. His form has been rewarded with selection in the AFL Players’ Association’s 22Under22 squad and his story is one that continues to be underrated.
“For a young bloke, his resilience and durability has been great and, even more than that, his leadership is coming through. He’s growing so much as a young man,” Conole added.
“On very few occasions does he get comprehensively beaten, even during some of the games where the side has battled, he usually is able to hold his head high.”
Andrews still obsesses over his performance and is described as a massive footy-head. His love for the game is as great as ever despite the all-encompassing nature of being a full-time footballer.
“He’ll watch all the footy shows if he can,” McCluggage said.
“He’ll watch the whole game a day or two after we play to try and pick up on a few things — he just loves footy.”
McCluggage doesn’t mind more footy at home or getting a lecture because of forgetting to lock the front door because he knows the quality character Andrews is.
All of this from a bloke who wouldn’t even be able to drink in some parts of the world.
“He’s only two years older than us but he’s still someone we’d aspire to be.
“We couldn’t have gotten a better bloke to live with — we’re pretty lucky.”