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Players’ Voice — Nick Coffield

Nick Coffield played 10 games in his debut season for the St Kilda Football Club. The eighth selection in the 2017 National Draft reflects upon his first year in the system in an exclusive column.

My first season with St Kilda and in the AFL has been somewhat of a roller-coaster.

You want to enjoy the highs of AFL but also not get too ahead of yourself because things can change pretty quickly.

I played the seven games at the start of the season before only managing three for the rest of the year.

It’s difficult because you have to keep a level head but naturally you can begin to ride the ups and downs of your season which can start to drive you insane.

I learnt plenty from my first year and I think it’s what I do in the next 12 months, and how I learn to cope with the challenges of my first season, that will help me in the future.

The AFL is a huge jump up from the TAC Cup or under-18 football — everyone is fitter and faster.

You learn pretty quickly once you’re in the AFL system that it isn’t under-18 football anymore but I also know that it will probably take me a few pre-seasons before I am at the level I want to be at to be a consistently good player.

Naturally, being a high draft pick can come with external pressures of expectation but I felt I handled the pressure pretty well.

I was fortunate enough to be drafted with Hunter Clark because we were going through the same motions of starting our life in the AFL.

We also live together which meant we have been able to help each other through it all.

Playing in the back-line for the majority of my season I spent time working closely with Dylan Roberton.

Even though he couldn’t be out on the field with us this year it was awesome for a few of the boys and myself to learn off him.

Being in the system and working under players like Seb Ross, who is the ultimate professional, helps you to build up on your knowledge every year.

Even though we lost to Adelaide by 49 points, my debut is the first thing that comes to mind when I think about the football highlights of my year.

Your debut game is something you dream about as a little kid and to finally be able to play a game and get a feel for the AFL is surreal.

It was even better for me because I kicked a goal and I don’t think I’ll be kicking too many of them in my life, so having the boys get around me was a great feeling.

Our draw against GWS was also another highlight for me.

I hadn’t won a game yet with the Saints and so that was the closest I got — it was a really good game to be part of.

Spending half of my year on the sidelines was challenging, though.

My injury wasn’t serious, I only had the niggles for about a month, and I felt like I could play through it but you have to grapple with wanting to get your body right and also wanting to be back in the side.

It’s hard knowing what you are capable of as a footballer but because of an injury your body just won’t let you reach that.

As frustrated as I was with not being able to play and get my body right from a simple injury, the medical and high performance staff at St Kilda were able to point me in the right direction with rehab and help me get back to playing.

Hunts and I also live with Doulton Langlands, who was drafted last year with us.

It’s been pretty hard living with just us 18-year-old boys — not in a football sense but in terms of cooking food and household chores.

The first time I cooked pasta I used the wrong kind of tomato sauce.

It can be pretty hard to adapt when the food makes itself and your clothes wash themselves at home but when you move out you have to learn to fend for yourself a bit.

Hunts, Doulton and I are all good mates so we love living together and just chilling out playing PlayStation to get away from football.

I spent my first year focusing on the AFL but next year I’ll be going to university to study finance.

It’s definitely been hard at times watching my mates play but I can’t wait to get out there and play with them next year.