Going into my first AFL draft I was pretty nervous.
My top-age year in the TAC Cup hadn’t been the most consistent — I’d been struck down by injury and trying to play through the issues.
I’d had an interrupted pre-season with a lisfranc injury and then an interrupted finish to my year when I hurt the navicular bone in my foot.
Given my injuries, I wasn’t playing as well as I could have and my running output was down but I was hopeful that the draft would work out for me and I would get selected.
The reality was that I knew there was every chance it wouldn’t happen for me that year.
I tried my best to prepare myself going into the draft with the idea that I wouldn’t be taken to try and make it a little bit easier for myself.
The first half of the night was exciting, my TAC Cup club Sandringham had five of the top 11 picks, so I was enjoying supporting my mates but after the first round the reality of the draft began to sink in.
I began to anticipate what might happen towards the second half of the draft. It was a nervous couple of hours.
As the night went on and names were called I resigned to the fact that it probably wasn’t going to happen for me that night.
It was pretty tough. I went up to my room and didn’t say a lot — I was holding out hope for Monday’s rookie draft.
Waiting those 48 hours for the rookie draft was really challenging but I was fortunate to have family and my girlfriend around to help me get through.
I watched the rookie draft by myself and when that finished and my name hadn’t been called I was upset. It was a shock at first but then the feeling of not being picked up began to sink in.
Dad came home after the draft and spoke to me. I was still in my room, not really saying much and pretty upset but deep down I knew I had to move on pretty quickly.
It wasn’t so much an ultimatum but a strong piece of advice. I was fortunate to have been studying at university in my top-age year so I had things to fall back on.
Dad said that I had two options: to focus on study and getting my degree or to pick myself up and give it another crack as a 19-year-old.
His advice was to understand and accept what had happened but to move on as quickly as I could and try and get a leg up on next year.
It was tough for me because I was still in a moon boot and couldn’t do much but it was about overcoming the mental barrier and understanding that I had another year ahead of me.
I really lent on my family and girlfriend during this time for support and it’s something that I would recommend to whoever misses out on the draft this year.
Leaning on your family for support during that time is important because your draft chances aren’t over, it could happen the next year. You’ve got to move on and launch into it as soon as you can.
Going into my 19th year was a different feel.
I was hopeful I was going to get taken, and my gut feel was more that it would be in the rookie draft rather than the national draft, but having played a few games in the VFL I was confident I could match it at the elite level if given the opportunity.
I was a bit nervous waiting for the draft but having been through it the year before the nerves weren’t as prevalent.
My brother Andrew had flown up to Sydney with mum and dad to attend the draft and I was watching at home with my girlfriend Lauren and older brother Angus.
The idea was floated that we would all fly to Sydney and celebrate after should both our names be called but I didn’t want to make that commitment in case I wasn’t selected.
About 45 minutes before the draft Lauren suggested we go and watch at the Constable’s house, Charlie (who was picked up by Geelong), lived about 10 minutes down the road from me, and our families had grown up together.
We watched as Andrew was selected by Fremantle with pick 2 and celebrated that before we waited to see where Charlie would get called.
It was a nervous wait but at pick 36, Geelong called his name out.
Everyone went crazy and by pick 45 all his friends and family had come over to celebrate.
I was so excited for Andrew and Charlie but it started to hit me how nervous I was.
I was sitting on the couch unsure of what was going to happen.
With every pick and every minute that went by, I was getting more and more nervous.
As picks came around where I thought I may get called the celebrations for Charlie began to taper down and everyone was riding the waves with me. The tension was high and everyone was anticipating where I would be called out.
I knew West Coast had shown interest in me, they told me they might take me with a late pick or as a rookie selection but it wasn’t a guarantee.
There were a few clubs with picks from about 55 to 70 that were interested in me, and the 20 minutes between those picks felt like three hours.
When pick 68 rolled around and Andrew Dillon walked onto the stage with a smile and said my name, everyone erupted.
It was an unbelievable feeling. Angus jumped on me and gave me a big hug, my girlfriend gave me a big hug and everyone was crying.
The fact we were at Charlie’s house was like I was celebrating with family.
Andrew got on the phone to me straight away on a media call that Fremantle was filming for their social channels.
I didn’t know because Andrew hadn’t had time to warn me, so I got on the phone and started swearing and going nuts and he said, ‘We are actually on a media call so you’ll have to tone that down.’
It was excitement, joy and happiness all mixed into one. It was amazing.
I started getting calls and texts from everyone and it was just overwhelming.
The fact I had missed out the year before and had to work hard for 12 months, it paid off and was all the better for it. It was probably the best night of my life.
My advice for the boys going through this experience this year is that if you do get picked up, you’ve got to attack training and pre-season with the same intensity irrespective of if you are pick 1 or the last pick.
Many of the top first half will know so they will be ready and prepared mentally to jump into a pre-season and start so it’s more for the kids who are unsure and uncertain, it’s those kids that this message goes to.
Once you’re at a club, picks mean nothing.
If you’ve gone pick 68, there were 67 picks where you were overlooked so you want to work hard and show the people who have given you an opportunity that they have made the right choice. You use that as a driver to work yourself and jump into training.
For the kids that don’t get drafted, it’s not the end of the world.
Some take it harder than others, and it is really disappointing at the time but life goes on and the world keeps spinning. I know it’s hard but you need to try and move on and give it a red hot crack next year.
There are people who are 24 or 25 and still going, it doesn’t always happen at 18 so the dream doesn’t die with your top-age year going undrafted.
The fire and fuel of missing out on the draft is something that burned in me for 12 months and really gave me that drive for when I didn’t want to get up in the morning and do an extra session or I didn’t want to go to training after work, that’s something that I used to really get me motivated to go again.
If it’s a dream to play at the next level, use that feeling to drive yourself to train and work harder than anyone else to go again the next year. It’s not over.