There’s a consistent theme that is shared when you ask anyone as to why Melbourne’s recruiters decided to draft the late-developing James Jordon.
The 20-year-old was a draft bolter in 2018 – taken by Melbourne, to some people’s surprise, with pick No. 33 in that year’s Draft.
But, for those who know him, it’s less surprising.
His humble nature and overall character was difficult to overlook.
“He was a consistent footballer and he’s worked his backside off to be where he is, but it’s the type of person he is away from the field that has always stood out,” former Hawthorn and Richmond player Barry Rowlings, part of Caulfield Grammar’s football program, told aflplayers.com.au.
With the support of his Mum, Prue, the Yarrawonga product spent hours in the car each weekend fulfilling his football commitments.
Prue would travel to Melbourne nearly every week to watch Jordon play, committed to supporting him in his football endeavours and everything else he was working towards.
A move to the city to attend Caulfield Grammar School for cricket, in Melbourne’s inner south-east, as a boarder came at an opportune time.
It gave Jordon a chance to develop his football craft, while also fulfilling his cricketing ambitions.
Despite the great improvements he made in a short period of time, it wasn’t enough to earn him selection in the Sandringham Dragons’ TAC Cup, now NAB League, squad.
Unable to secure a spot in Victoria’s primary talent pathway program, Jordon plied away at his trade in the APS football program. As a Year 11 student, he donned the blue and white hoops at Caulfield Grammar once, but it wasn’t until his final year of high school that he made a name for himself.
Despite only playing a few games, Caulfield coach Anthony Phillips – father of current Hawthorn player, Tom, and former Saint, Ed – saw plenty of upside in Jordon and helped him transfer to the Oakleigh Chargers’ squad ahead of the 2018 season.
Rowlings, who has spent more than 15 years working with Caulfield’s football program, including when champion Eagle and Blue Chris Judd was at the school, said Jordon’s attitude and willingness to improve himself always set him apart from his contemporaries.
“He never complained and was always willing to work hard and go the extra mile, whether that was in the gym or with his studies,” Rowlings said.
“He really worked to give himself every opportunity to get picked up. To his credit, it could have been enough when he was dropped out of the talent pathway squads, but he kept working at it and it’s a testament to his attitude and the type of person he is.”
Unsurprising to those coaching him, Jordon’s performance across the 2018 APS football season was one of very high quality.
In one year, he’d come on in “leaps and bounds” according to Rowlings and had put himself in contention to earn a spot on an AFL list.
Jordon picked up near on eight best-on-ground performances and was subsequently rewarded with the Morcom Medal – the school’s best-and-fairest award.
It kickstarted a lightning run to the AFL draft, with Jordon also playing a significant role in Oakleigh’s finals series and heartbreaking Grand Final loss.
When Jordon’s name was called out with the 33rd pick overall in the 2018 Draft, it was a sense of elation for Rowlings and those who had supported Jordon on his topsy turvy path to the elite level.
Drafted as an inside midfielder, Jordon was competing early on against the likes of a stacked Melbourne midfield featuring Jack Viney, Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver.
He was knocking down the door for a senior debut in 2020, but an unfortunate gym injury would delay his opportunity until 2021.
Despite the challenges, the ever-resilient Jordon used it as an opportunity to continue to develop himself and demonstrate to the Melbourne coaching group exactly why he deserved a chance to play in the senior team.
When Adem Yze crossed from Hawthorn to Melbourne’s coaching ranks in the off-season, Jordon immediately caught his eye.
“He’s willing to work hard and just get better every day. He’s become one of my favourites and has been working to improve himself and continually put in work to get better,” Yze told aflplayers.com.au.
Working closely with good friend and teammate Tom Sparrow, Jordon pushed himself over the summer break causing a selection headache for Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin ahead of their Round 1 clash with Fremantle.
Jordon had finally done enough to earn his opportunity and he hasn’t looked back.
Described by Yze as a ‘flexible’ player, Jordon has played wherever the Dees have required him
From stints in the middle, to pushing forward and kicking goals, Jordon has added value to the unbeaten Melbourne outfit
In his nine games at the elite level, Jordon has become a consistent player and elite tackler.
He currently ranks third in the league for tackles, averaging 6.7 a game, reflecting Melbourne’s refined high-pressure game plan, and ranks 16th in the AFL for tackles inside 50.
Jordon is averaging 17.3 disposals, 2.9 marks and has kicked three goals for the season.
“He’s level-headed and has had the opportunity to play in some big games to start the season, he’s played in different conditions, and he’s travelled interstate as well,” Yze said.
“For a young guy, even though he’s not in his first season, that presents a lot of different challenges. He’s taken that all in his stride and has a really mature outlook on the game.”
Rewarded with the Round 8 Rising Star nomination, Jordon is starting to receive the external recognition that he has been long regarded for within the four walls at AAMI Park.
“He’s a trustworthy teammate and a terrific kid to coach,” Yze said. “He’s putting in the work and it’s so great to see him being rewarded.”
For Rowlings, who has seen a number of talented footballers come through Caulfield Grammar’s ranks, he still feels immense pride watching them make their mark in the AFL.
“James is a really good, honest person who wants to do whatever he needs to reach the top… it’s been great to watch him finally get there,” Rowlings said.