At the ripe old age of 19, I wasn’t enjoying my football.
My first season at the Calder Cannons had wrapped up, and I was invited back as a 19-year-old, but I wanted to return to the local level and play with my mates in the Essendon District Football League.
Why? It’s simple. Football was just so serious and I was a young kid who was working away. I found it hard to find the balance, and I was always tired and grumpy.
I wanted to have a laugh with everyone on Thursday night during team selection. I needed to find the love for the game again.
Growing up, I never thought I was going to get drafted. I just wanted to play footy locally and do what normal people do — work and play footy on the Saturday.
Then, I started to get calls from a couple of clubs and those close to me told me to go and play VFL and that’s when it all happened.
One successful season with Coburg and I got my chance, taken with pick 66 as a 20-year-old.
A number of lives will change this Friday, but not all will be selected.
Never get down on yourself. You can get drafted at 21, you can get drafted at 23 like Lee Spurr. Always give things a go, always look to improve on what you’re told to improve on, and then go and make those flaws your strengths.
Back when I was playing for Coburg, I had some honest conversations with Peter German, who was a coach, a friend, a mentor and even a father figure.
He made it clear what I needed to work on. Things like my aerial contests, reading the play and using the ball a little bit better.
I did extras before and after training and sought help from many coaches to assist me. Obviously, it has paid off because I’m playing AFL, but it wasn’t easy. Don’t be shy, find out what you need to improve on.
Initially, I struggled to confront coaches and ask questions, but I learnt quickly that you have to be proactive. At Coburg, ‘Germo’ spoke to me about what I could do and what I could become.
We had our talks and he helped me to mature. We spoke about everything — footy, life, girls, going out, rehabbing injuries — you name it. He told me to pull my head in after I didn’t rehab my ankle properly and I listened.
For those that are lucky enough to get drafted, embrace the experience to become a professional. Footy clubs are interesting beasts and everyone is there to help you.
Talk to your coaches, work hard with the strength and conditioning team. Make sacrifices because your time in the game can be short.
My advice to the guys going through it this year is to not be daunted by going interstate. You’re around 40 blokes with the same interests and in many ways they’re similar to you.
Put your head down, your bum up and work as hard as you can. Being a first-year player, your program might be modified slightly, but it’s still a grind and you have to do the work.
Look at the older boys around you and pick up things from them. I was lucky enough to live with Tommy Sheridan and he has helped me out a lot.
The most important piece of advice, however, is to enjoy it.
From playing local football two years ago, then VFL and finally AFL, I feel like I’ve seen and been through a lot.
Truthfully, I was surprised to make an impact in my first season. I didn’t expect a rising star nomination at all, but it comes down to the work you put in. You can achieve your goals if you put in the time.
It doesn’t matter where you’re selected, either. If you’re on an AFL list, you’re always a chance.
Good luck to everyone who is about to go through what I did last year.
To those that aren’t successful, your journey doesn’t end there. Trust me.