Lewis Fitzgerald: The forgotten man

Oakleigh’s midfield is the personification of polish, and Lewis Fitzgerald is certainly no exception. The Vic Metro midfielder stands out from this year’s crop being one of the only tall midfielders who can provide silky 55 metre passes into the forward 50. Fresh off a 13.4 beep test at the state combine, Fitzgerald joined us to discuss his year, the time ahead and his chances of being drafted.

For those teams that might not have the picks to secure Marcus Bontempelli, while also prefering a bigger body than Calder’s Aaron Christensen, Fitzgerald could very well fit the build. Whilst not being a world beating runner, Fitzgerald was content with his performance at the combine, with his beep test being one of the highest on the day.

Fitzgerald rated his selection for Vic Metro the highlight of his year, but it was bittersweet at the same time. Fitzgerald was picked to play the first game against Queensland, but then his proudest moment became the story of his year: “fourteen minutes into the game I got a hairline fracture on my right collarbone” Fitzgerald said. While he had a slim chance of making it back for finals, Oakleigh’s disappointing season meant that he was unable to play another game and would watch his teammates from the sidelines.

With seven weeks off, Fitzgerald delved into the struggle; “it was a pretty tough time, but it was a good learning experience”.  Yet it wasn’t just a personal struggle, the underperforming and APS ravaged squad was unable to make finals. “We had a really talented list… we had a great preseason but it just didn’t come together”. Fitzgerald rated the Chargers squad’s talent, particularly co-captains Jay Kennedy-Harris and Will Maginness, saying their skill level was “really really high”.

After being clear best on ground in an early season draw against the Western Jets, Fitzgerald was disappointed that he didn’t have the chance to showcase his talent. 17 touches, ten marks, a goal and inside 50 after inside 50 impressed the likes of Kevin Sheehan, who watched on with a smile.

After coming back from his seven week layoff, Fitzgerald then completely fractured his collarbone in his first game back, ruling him out for the rest of the year. Fitzgerald decided not to risk his health by playing in the young guns game, ruling out all competitive football till next year.

Unlike many other TAC Cup players, Fitzgerald said he will play on with Oakleigh as a 19 year old if he doesn’t get selected by an AFL team, as well as playing some development game for Port Melbourne, the Chargers affiliate VFL club. At this stage, no AFL clubs have had a chat to Fitzgerald, but to make it to the state combine, at least two clubs need to show interest. “When I got the letter for the state combine I was overjoyed”.

Despite the injury plagued year, Fitzgerald feels “like I’m in a pretty good position fitness wise, I feel like I tested pretty well”. Which despite the obvious negatives with his injury and setbacks means he has a good chance of finding an AFL club, albeit late or in the rookie draft. Any club that wants a tall midfielder with a silky penetrating kick should have their eyes set on Fitzgerald. He might be the forgotten man due to his injury, but not for long after his impressive results at the state combine.

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