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Players’ Voice — Nick Holman

Following on from being selected with the 51st pick in the 2013 national draft by Carlton, Nick Holman managed nine games in two seasons with the Blues before being delisted. After that disappointed, the hard-working apprentice electrician played two strong seasons in the SANFL before gaining a second AFL opportunity with the Gold Coast Suns via last year’s rookie draft. The 22-year-old shares his experiences in an exclusive column.

After two seasons and nine games with Carlton, I considered going back home to Kyabram and playing local footy again.

The sour and devastating feeling that swept over me during this period probably led to those irrational thoughts, but at the end of the day, I wasn’t sure what to do.

Thankfully, I didn’t go down that path, because I wouldn’t be lining up for my second game in Gold Coast colours if I did!

Not long after being delisted by the Blues, I received a phone call from Roy Laird from Central Districts in the SANFL.

He said they were keen on signing me and that I should head over and try my luck, so I did. Dad came across with me, we toured the facilities, and I instantly knew I wanted to play there.

To say things moved quickly after that would be an understatement. Before I knew it, I had relocated within a month and had a job lined up.

It wasn’t difficult to acclimatise to a new city, because I moved to Melbourne for two years to play with Carlton. Making relationships was also a breeze, but I had to work out what I wanted out of my footy.

To be honest, I probably headed over there without a purpose initially. I was happy just playing and had sorted out an apprenticeship as an electrician. It wasn’t until midway through my first season in 2016 that I started to feel a bit better about my footy and probably saw the opportunity for another AFL experience.

Then 2017 rolled around and I really cracked in and looked to seize my opportunity.

At first I was going over there to just see what happens, but after a while I realised that I was still good enough and started to harbour dreams again of getting back onto an AFL list.

Gold Coast were the only AFL club that were interested in me during that period. I had a really good game halfway through 2017, and then a few weeks after that, Gold Coast contacted me and they were keen to meet up. We then had a few more conversations as the year progressed.

I immediately started thinking about being on a list again and the lifestyle that comes with it. You can get caught up in that stuff though, so I had to shift my focus back to playing footy in the SANFL and making sure I was competing.

If I was re-drafted, it would have been great, but if I wasn’t, I was pretty well set up.

Heading into the rookie draft, Gold Coast didn’t provide me with a guarantee, but I did get a call from a few people on the Thursday heading into it.

I had to get a scan on my knee because I was taping it all year, so they wanted to make sure that it was fine.

That gave me an inkling that they’d take me, but you’re never sure because they can’t guarantee anything because even they don’t know what’s going to happen! I was quietly excited, but still nervous.

Many players have interesting stories on the day of the rookie draft, and mine was no different last year.

After knocking off work, I went round to my mate’s house. We were loading up the rookie draft on the computer and it was a surreal experience. I went pick 19, and there were 18 picks in the first round, but once the first round concluded, we couldn’t refresh the page, and no selections were popping up on the screen.

We ended up reading the blog on the page because that was keeping everyone up to date with what was going on and who was being selected so then, we finally refreshed it and my name was first to pop up!

I immediately had some tears with my mate, and then my phone went off with calls from my family and friends. It was just like re-living my first draft experience.

Since then, the time has flown. I’ve begun to get an understanding of what’s required, and now I just want to keep gaining the respect of the coaches and my teammates by working hard. I think early on I began to receive that, and I’ve looked to carry it through.

Having previous leadership experience, I certainly wasn’t quiet when I arrived at the club.

Never would I have thought that I’d be selected for Round 1, though. The momentum just kept going after AFLX, and then JLT 1. Then I played the second JLT game, and a few injuries went my way, but that’s footy.

To debut in those crazy conditions up north last week was a unique experience, but one I thrived in.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure whether we were going to play. If it kept raining the way it was early on, I don’t think we would have been able to continue.

As for my performance, I thought I played my role pretty well, and obviously the conditions favoured that a little bit with all of the tackling and pressure. I thought I delivered on the effort that the coaches want me to bring, and I was delighted with how the team gelled and worked together.

Playing Carlton this week will be strange. I don’t know what to feel just yet. The club has changed a bit and there’s a lot of new faces, but I haven’t spoken to anyone yet. I think I’ll wait till after the game.

I loved every minute of being at the Blues. They’re a good club with a big fan base, so it was sad to leave because I thought I was getting better and perhaps coming into my peak, so it was frustrating and disappointing to leave, but thankfully things have turned out alright.