Just moments after being traded to Melbourne from Fremantle, Harley Balic spoke to AFLPlayers.com.au about his fresh start in his home state.
How did you feel this morning that the trade was confirmed and you were able to move to Melbourne?
I was over the moon. I had heard things during the week but didn’t know officially until this morning when it went through. I’m just stoked to have somewhere locked in.
How’d you find out the news?
Jason Taylor the recruiting manager from the club gave me a call last night and let me know that I should expect it to happen tomorrow morning. I just went into the club before once it was all finalised and met up with everyone.
So when you heard that last night, what were you thinking? Did you have a sleepless night?
There were still some nerves because I knew the trade would go through but you still want it to actually happen. I was a bit restless last night but felt relieved this morning when it all came through for me.
What was the waiting game like? You had to wait right up until the second last day…
I was trying to think not too much about it and kind of thought that it would happen towards the backend of the trade period. If it got to tomorrow, then I might have been a bit more nervous.
What was it about the Dees that attracted you?
They’re a young group on the rise and they have finals aspirations. They were a bit unlucky to not make it last year and I am excited about the young group. I’ve toured the facilities and I did a club week there a couple of years ago with the AIS and really enjoyed what they were about. It was pretty easy.
Going back a little bit, take me through the 2015 draft and how you slipped down the draft board…
There was the possibility that I would need a third operation on my wrist, which I ended up having when I first got to Fremantle. I was lucky enough that Freo had the trust in me and I’m very grateful for that.
What was your time like in Perth?
At the start it was quite hard for me because I didn’t play in my first year. And then I finally started to get some games and got some momentum, but the homesickness and the isolation over there and not having anyone there for my ups and downs probably was the biggest thing. When I came home I just wanted to regroup and regather myself to try and get another chance this year which I’m lucky enough to have.
Talk me through the homesickness and feeling isolated?
It was not having a whole lot to do, and Perth is so far away and I didn’t have anyone from my immediate family close to me. After games, I couldn’t celebrate with anyone and if things went wrong I didn’t have a shoulder to lean on. I grew up a lot through those times but I’m glad to be back here with family and friends now.
How difficult was your first year when you weren’t playing and didn’t have a support network around you?
It was tough. But then I felt like I learnt to rely on myself and once I did I felt that things got a bit easier. But then I had some setbacks and some personal things going on and homesickness and it just all got too much for me to keep pushing through by myself.
You must have been relieved that the club were able to grant you some personal leave when you needed it?
Yeah, Ross was amazing through that and so was Chris Bond and everyone at the club. They were very understanding and gave me a couple of opportunities to come home which was really good. I was very lucky to have them.
What do you think is your best position? Where do you see yourself?
Probably more as a high half-forward, but I’m also really keen to get into the midfield, although there’s a lot of midfielders at Melbourne. I wouldn’t mind sneaking in for maybe a quarter or two.
Do you know many guys at the club?
I know Corey Maynard because I’m good friends with his little brother, Brayden. I know Gus Brayshaw well and played with Lochie Filipovic at the Dragons. It’s handy to know them.
In Perth, what did you do to stay busy away from footy?
Not a whole lot. I just trained and then I over-trained and fatigued myself mentally and physically. I’d go and hit a golf ball every now and then but I was no good so I didn’t do it a whole lot. But yeah, nothing really. I didn’t have an escape.
I can sympathise with you when it comes to golf… I slice it a lot.
Same! I go right every time.
When you spoke about over-training, was that just a by-product of the fact that you weren’t playing many games and you thought you needed to train more?
Yeah. When I had the wrist injury, I thought I had a lot of ground to make up and I was going as hard as I could for a long period of time. I didn’t come home over the last Christmas break so I could get a couple of more sessions in stayed over there with a lot less distractions and that didn’t help me in the end.
Now do you feel you know the right balance?
Yeah. I’ve taken a lot out of it and learnt a lot.
What’s your program like now at Melbourne? When does pre-season begin?
We come back on the 6th, but I’ve been doing my own program four or five times a week — going for runs. I’ll keep doing that until we rock up for pre-season.
What sort of individual targets do you have for this year?
I’d like to play Round 1 but I have to see how I rock up and how I present. I have good faith in how I’ll go. But if not, I’ll just try and get in as soon as I can.
You spoke before about training and the things you do away from footy, but what do you need to improve on in your game to make you more consistent?
I need to improve on my endurance and my kicking. They’re definitely the two biggest things and if I can incorporate them into my game to help me to run and carry and hit some more targets, it’ll be beneficial.
Good luck with everything at Melbourne and thanks for the chat.
No worries. I appreciate that, thank you.