If you watched Richmond play last Friday night, you would probably think that Callum Moore has always belonged on the football field.
Playing his fourth game for the season and just the sixth of his career, Moore took five marks and kicked a pair of goals in a big win over Adelaide. The young forward has plans to cement a place in the reigning premiers’ lineup after an injury-affected 2017 season.
Long before he was centre stage on the MCG, however, Moore was a much less imposing figure on the field.
In his first year of playing football in under-10s, he admitted to being ‘the one in goal square playing with the dirt, kicking it around and not really concentrating.’ He simply didn’t enjoy it that much.
But when he came close to calling it quits ahead of his second season of junior football, his dad resorted to a tactic that many parents would know.
“Dad came across and said ‘look, if you play good I’ll buy you Maccas after the game,’” Moore told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“And what do you know, I played well and got the Maccas! And I’ve played some pretty good footy since then.”
After pushing past his early reluctance and continuing on the football field, he soon found a second home on the basketball court. While it was his dad that encouraged his football career, it was his classmates that sparked his interest in basketball.
“When it first started it was just out on the court at lunchtime with my mates, then one thing led to another and I was playing domestic, and then I got a call-up for Coburg to come down and train with them in the rep side,” Moore added.
For a while Moore tried to balance his dual sporting careers, along with schoolwork, family and friends. As with most young athletes, however, it reached a point where some tough decisions needed to be made.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t football that won out when push came to shove. At least, not initially.
“I decided to leave the Calder Cannons in under-16s to play basketball. I played for Coburg and then realised I wasn’t ever going to go up against LeBron James, so I gave that the flick,” he said.
Once he was focussed solely on football once again, Moore’s career picked up steam very quickly. He was thrust back into the Cannons line-up almost immediately and a strong finish to 2014 saw him gain the attention of AFL recruiters.
While his 2015 season was plagued by inconsistencies in role and form, he found a healthy balance off the field. After finishing Year 12 and completing his schooling the year before, he was able to focus more on his real interests.
That meant more time spent on football and working alongside his father as a landscaper.
“I was pretty lucky to work with dad and chill out with him for the year while focussing on my footy. He’s a really hard worker and really easy to get along with,” Moore said.
It was while at work with his dad when Moore found out the biggest news of his life — that he had been selected by Richmond in the 2015 rookie draft.
“We were sitting in the truck that day and I was just refreshing it and refreshing it. It got up to Richmond, they read my name and I was that excited,” he said.
“Dad said ‘what, what’s going on?’ I told him Richmond took me, he said ‘pack up the tools, we’re going home!’”
While Moore had hoped to be picked in the national draft three days earlier, his fears of going undrafted were allayed by a phone call he received the following day.
After not showing much interest throughout the draft process, the Tigers called and instantly won him over.
“I hadn’t spoken to Richmond all year, but they told me to come in for an interview down at the club. There were interstate clubs thinking about rookie picks, but I really wanted it to be Richmond,” he said.
After debuting and playing two games in 2016, an ankle injury kept him sidelined for the early part of last season. While the rehab process was a challenge, Moore saw opportunity in the setback.
“A lot of people say rehab’s a dark place but I thought it actually worked for me to work on some things,” he said.
“Being in the gym, getting fitter, getting stronger — from that fitness and rehab, I thought my game improved as a player.”
Those improvements resulted in Moore play a key role in the Richmond VFL side, which made a stunning finals run before falling at the last hurdle.
Although the grand final loss to Port Melbourne stung and missing the AFL premiership hurt too, the 21-year-old says he’s content with his season.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous of them winning the flag but it is what it is.
“Both teams were very successful and I was really enjoying my footy through the VFL.”
With his injury concerns behind him and a career-best game in the books, Moore may have found his place at the top level this season.
And with the Tigers sitting on top of the AFL ladder, he be dreaming of the possibilities that could arise this September.