Fans Players

Jackson ready to embrace the challenge

More than 130 AFL players attended last week’s two-day Player Leadership and Induction Camp at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne. The event merged the previous Induction Camp and Directors and Delegates Conference to provide the opportunity for first-year players to mix with their senior peers. Education sessions on well-being, career development, player rights and advocacy, financial literacy and an introduction to the AFL Players’ Association were on offer for the first-year players. Last year’s No.3 pick and Melbourne draftee Luke Jackson reflects on his experience. 

It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks since being drafted to the Melbourne Football Club.

I’ve moved from Perth, in with my teammates Aaron vandenBerg and Angus Brayshaw, and now I’m living with a host family.

It’s a big move from west to east, but all of my teammates and everyone else at the club have been incredibly supportive helping me settle into life in the AFL.

To be part of a club environment full-time and spend everyday training with your close mates is a lifelong dream come true. It’s a huge step up from under-18 football, but it’s been worth every second.

Last week’s Player Leadership and Induction Camp gave myself and the other 2019 draftees the opportunity to spend time with and connect to our senior peers.

Although the AFL Players’ Association presented at the Draft Combine, I didn’t really understand the work they do for the playing group and Alumni members.

The two-day camp provided us new players the opportunity to educate ourselves on and understand the services available to us through the AFLPA.

It was important to know that they’re always there for us when we need them and the camp changed my perspective on that.

From my experience last week, the AFLPA feels like a family – we’re all here to support each other through our football journey.

The days themselves were jam-packed with education sessions, sponsor activations and presentations from the AFL and ASADA on anti-doping and the Illicit Drug Policy (IDP).

The education sessions were incredibly important so we are all aware of what is expected of us as professional athletes and how we can keep ourselves out of trouble.

I think for a lot of people when they’re young they don’t realise how the decisions they make can impact their career.

We’ve seen how quickly it can be taken away from you.

We were also fortunate enough to hear from (former Port Adelaide and Carlton ruckman) Matthew Lobbe, (former Fremantle and Gold Coast midfielder) Michael Barlow and (former Victorian and Australian cricketer) Bobby Quiney on their different pathways and athlete journeys.

The stories and insights they shared with us put into perspective the journey we’re about to embark on.

Our careers won’t always go according to plan and, for some others, their first year might not be as successful as they had hoped, but I think it’s about making sure that you’re working hard, embracing the challenge and utilising the resources around you.

Hopefully I’ll be able to apply the lessons they spoke about to my own life and career.

With the new format of the day we also spent time with the AFLPA delegates and board members.

To hear from senior players such as (AFLPA President and Geelong midfielder) Patrick Dangerfield and understand how they care for and view the PA was really valuable. It honed in on the importance of unity even though we’re competing against each other on the football field.

They’ve been in the system a lot longer than us and as young players you look up to them.

For me one of the most enjoyable elements of the two days was having the chance to see my former teammates and friends who I played under-18 football with and against.

It was one of the last opportunities to spend time together before we take the field this year.

As for me, football still feels unreal. It’s hard to believe I’m living my dream at an AFL club.

I’m looking forward to facing whatever this year brings and enjoying the experience along the way.

Here’s hoping I can improve and play my role for Melbourne.