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Young Gregson a flipping star

Celebrating a goal is a special part of footy. Whether it’s in the local under-12s competition or in the big League, we love seeing the elation after a clutch six-pointer is kicked.

While international soccer and NFL have taken celebrations to new heights after scoring, we here in the Australian Rules industry usually resort to fist pumps and high fives.

But if a player has a background like Geelong’s Cory Gregson, they might be able to do something previously unseen on the elite’s big stage.

Before Gregson set his eyes on becoming an AFL player, he excelled as a junior gymnast – winning scholarships and “a couple of national championships”. He still has the ability to flip on the spot if the time ever required him to do so – such as kicking a goal after the siren to secure a Geelong win.

Featured as part of Channel Seven’s #discovered series, Gregson says acrobatics runs through his blood.

“When my mum was younger she did gymnastics – until she broke her back when she was ten, which forced her to quit, unfortunately. So she suggested it to me and I thought I’d give it a crack,” Gregson said.

“I really enjoyed everything about gymnastics, just having the floor and trampoline and being able to exert my energy. I just thought it was fun.”

Gymnastics is not often seen amongst AFL circles, as most players dabble in other codes while growing up. Cricket, basketball, soccer, tennis, rugby and athletics are popular among kids, who often pick up skills that come in handy when adapted to footy.

But sports such as pole vaulting – which Gregson’s teammate Jed Bews indulged in as a youngster – and ballet, which James Hird undertook during his school years, are examples of rare pursuits that can also be used to gain an advantage.

A gymnast requires elite strength, flexibility, agility, power, and coordination to compete – a set of attributes that AFL recruiters dream of.

“Walking into the change room and seeing the likes of Jimmy Bartel and Joel Selwood and they talk to you like you’re a normal person… It’s unbelievable” – Cory Gregson

On top of this, Gregson also bolstered his draft standing by showing he could adapt to life away from his home in Port Willunga, South Australia when he moved to Morphettville, to be a little closer to training at Glenelg.

“I moved out of home when I was 16 to live with a host family. I was at the senior school in Sacred Heart and playing for the Glenelg Football Club in the SANFL, so I just wanted to save mum traveling an hour and a half to two hours every day.

“I moved in with the Wesleys and they were absolutely lovely. I picked up a few skills, learnt how to cook, and just learnt how to look after myself a bit more than other boys my age.”

The 18-year-old was then selected at pick 47 by the Cats in the 2014 National Draft, before making a relatively unexpected debut in Round 1 this season – a feat not often seen by players picked in the third-round the previous year.

His meteoric rise has only continued since, culminating in the Round 6 Rising Star nomination after an 18-disposal and three-goal effort against the Magpies.

While those down at Kardinia Park may not be as astonished with the small forward’s development, Gregson says he’s a little surprised with his opportunities, given the calibre of the Geelong side.

“The biggest surprise would be playing Round 1 and continuing on. Walking into the change room and seeing the likes of Jimmy Bartel and Joel Selwood, players you’ve watched growing up and idolised, and they talk to you like you’re a normal person… It’s unbelievable.”

Though Gregson is unlikely to pull out a back-flip on the footy field any time soon – telling the Herald Sun he’d probably get mugged in the car-park if he did so – playing close to goals will mean he’s likely to have plenty of opportunities to celebrate in the years ahead. There’ll be plenty hoping that he can show off some of his tricks after booting a stellar major, one day.

Joel Selwood tells his TeamUp story