AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last few weeks, we are taking a look at some of the up-and-coming draft prospects for the 2020 draft. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Michael Alvaro chatted with Brisbane Lions Academy prospect Carter Michael. As we delve into the Queensland-based talent, you’ll get to know everything you need to know about the brightest academy talents.
Michael, a midfielder who for the most part has displayed his talent on the outside, is looking to base his game around Western Bulldogs star, Marcus Bontempelli as he bulks up for more permanent time at centre circle. The 188cm prospect has a similarly damaging left foot kick, and likes to break free from stoppage congestion with his acceleration and agility.
Having a brother also within the Lions’ Academy ranks has helped with the improvised training workload, with the pair building an at-home gym and using the local football oval to keep up to scratch. Michael has already graduated from high school, and is using 2020 to focus on his football while also saving money earned from his part-time job as a Dominos delivery boy.
The Maroochydore junior also has a wide-range of mentors both on and off the field to look up to, with a bunch of Lions Academy products setting an example for those to come, the coaching staff guiding him along the way, and his Dad coaching him from Under 10s to Under 16s.
Carter already boasts a decent footballing resume too, having run out for the Lions in the NAB League, represented Queensland in last year’s Under 17 Futures series, and been selected to play on Grand Final day in the Under 17 All Stars showcase. The man himself gives us an update on his training, mindset, and goals amid lockdown.
Carter, how’d you go during pre-season, any niggles or did you have a clean slate?
“I started off well, was fit and healthy. With training, I didn’t miss a session with the boys and then the day before testing, I got called up to play NEAFL Lions against the SUNS and I got turf toe.
“That’s my only main injury so I was out for a couple of weeks but had to have it strapped ever since. That’s the only niggle so far, apart from that I’ve been pretty healthy through the pre-season which is good.”
Did you test at the pre-season day?
“No I didn’t because they told me to rest after I played the game the day before. “So I only did the standing reach, nothing else.”
What was the feeling like then when you got news about the season being delayed?
“I was shattered. “We had a meeting with all the boys in Brisbane, so we all travelled to Brissie. “We were talking about it and it was pretty flat to be honest. “Everyone was shattered, not being able to train with each other.”
“So it’s been hard but I’m lucky enough, I’ve got a brother who’s also in the Lions Academy. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to train with him every day so that’s one bonus, having a brother.”
Is he younger than you?
“Younger, a year younger. “Yeah he’s taller though, taller than me already.”
So a different kind of player?
“Yeah, he plays more in the forward line, like key forward. “He’s still developing though, still light like me but I play more midfield so it’s a good combination.”
How have you been improvising your training at home?
“We’ve built our own little gym in the backyard. “Built our own chin-up bar, a few weights which is good. “Most mornings we’ve been doing our gym session and then in the afternoons, because we live close to the Maroochydore footy fields, we go down there and either do our running with the footy or just have a kick around.”
Have you still been in contact with the Lions Academy and the Allies Hub, have they kept in touch?
“More with the Lions Academy. “Every Monday our mids have a Zoom meeting and we just talk about little things like this week we have a project about finding a player who you want to base your game around. “It’s good, it gives us something to do. “But not as much with the Allies… we do have a group chat but that’s about it.”
Who’s the player you look to base your game on, who’ve you chosen?
“I chose the Bont (Marcus Bontempelli). I love the way he plays. “He’s kind of the same build as me, just a little bit taller. “I was reading about his draft year and about the way he plays and I can kind of see the similarities (between) his strengths and my strengths. “We’re both left-footers, like to carry the footy so I thought he was a good player to base my game around.”
In terms of your mind-set, did it change at all given you might not get on the park as much as you would have liked?
“I’ve thought about how it’s a really good chance to work on my weaknesses especially and things I want to grow. “Putting on weight, I’ve been eating way more than I usually have with training so I’ve been trying to put on size.
“And also to improve my running, so I’ve put it into a positive at the same time, just building on my weaknesses to get a bit better. “That’s what you’ve got to do I guess, you’ve got to look at the positives in this.”
What are some of the on-field things you’re looking to develop as well?
“One big one is my leadership with the Lions Academy. “Being there for three years now I’m kind of one of the more experienced ones.
“So when I get back on the park hopefully, even just bringing leadership to some of the younger boys and being a good role model around them which is one key thing that the coaches talk to me about.”
Have you been changing position at all, are you looking to play more inside mid as well now?
“Yeah, I’m looking to develop that bigger body because I’m 188cm so if I can put a bit of size on and get used to the technical ways on the inside, it’s good having both – to be able to win your own footy as well like the Bont does. I’ve been trying to work on the inside game.”
What do you see as your key strengths?
“One would probably be my kicking, I’ve got a pretty good left foot kick, I kick long as well. “I like to base my game around my kicking. “And my decision making when I’ve got the footy I think is another good one I’ve got.
“Also my speed, I’m pretty for a bloke my height, I think under three (seconds over 20m), so just trying to get that footy and accelerate out of the contest.”
Tracking back a bit to your footy journey, have you always played juniors for the Maroochydore Roos?
“Yeah, I started there in Under 10s. “My Dad coached me all the way up to Under 16s which has been great, he’s been like my role model and he’s taught me pretty much everything about footy today which is great. “He’s just always been there for me, it’s good.”
Did your Dad used to play as well?
“He didn’t play at the elite level but injury kind of ruined his career. “I think he’s done about four knee reconstructions which doesn’t help but he says he was a handy footballer back in the day, which I believe.”
And then coming into the Lions Academy, what was that like?
“I got put in the Lions Academy when I was about 12, it’s been great for me. “Luke Curran and Josh Hunt have been great for me. “I got put in the Under 18s Lions Academy as a 16-year-old so that was a bit nerve-wracking I’ve got to say in those first few training sessions, seeing those older boys. “But eventually I got used to them and it was great for me for the next two years after that.”
Have you had any good mentors there? There’s been some decent talent coming out of the Lions Academy.
“One guy who’s from Noosa as well, he’s the Lions Academy mids coach at the moment, James Gellie. “He’s been great for me, he’s just there always supporting me and telling me how good I can be. “He’s pretty much been there since day one so it’s been great having him there.”
Representing Queensland must have been a pretty good honour for you?
“Yeah. “I represented them a few times, I love it. “I love the Queensland boys, it’s great. “Last year I didn’t get to play the first two (Under 17 Futures) games though because I had a broken finger, so I didn’t get to play against New South Wales at Southport, I ran water for them.
“But then I eventually got on the park in Victoria and played alright so it was great to be back out there with the boys.”
Who are some of the Brisbane and Queensland boys you enjoy playing alongside?
“There’s a couple of boys, Saxon (Crozier) and Blake (Coleman), I’m good mates with them and Tahj (Abberley). We all gel pretty well, we’ve been close for ages because Sax and I and Tahj have played since Under 12s so we’ve known each other for a fair while now. We’ve got a good bond going there.”
They’re all in the Allies hub with you, it must be good to have those familiar faces around the camps too?
“Yeah it is. The camp we went on the Gold Coast was great, I loved it. All the boys were so nice, I met so many new blokes and I’m good mates with them now, we keep in touch – asking them how their training’s been going. It’s a good bond, a close team even though we’ve only had one camp together.”
You’ve met a few boys from other states you’re looking forward to playing with?
“A few boys from the Northern Territory like Brodie Lake and Joel Jeffrey, “I’m pretty close with them. Big Jacko (Jackson Callow), I’m close with him as well so I can’t wait if we get the chance to play alongside them.”
In terms of your goals for the year, have they adjusted at all?
“Pretty much, if we get back to playing with the Allies just being able to be fit and healthy and play every game to put my best foot forward. “Then hopefully like everyone to get to the draft combine, and hopefully the big picture is getting on a senior list.”
Are you set on ending up at Brisbane or are you keeping your options open?
“I’m just keeping my options open, I wouldn’t be fussed wherever I go. “It’s just been a dream of mine so it doesn’t really matter where.”
You support Brisbane I assume?
“Yeah, I’ve supported Brisbane my whole life. “We went through a rough patch there early but it’s been good seeing the boys develop and get a few wins on the board.”
Did you get to train with the senior boys as well during pre-season?
“We got to have two weeks with them luckily enough, that was great. “I loved that experience, just the way they’re so close and the way they connect with each other even outside of training. “It was really good to be a part of that.”
You would’ve played in the NAB League this season too, how was it last year?
“That was great, I got to play against and alongside some great players like Noah Cumberland and Will Martyn, who were lucky enough to get drafted. “I learned heaps off them, their professionalism, especially Will’s professionalism went a long way. “And I was lucky enough to play in the midfield with a few of those boys which I loved.”
Noah Cumberland was a Maroochydore boy as well, did you play with him in juniors?
“Yeah I’m pretty close with him. “He was in my first-ever (Australian rules) team so we’ve just grown up every year being in my Dad’s team. It was so cool to see him get drafted, my Dad had a few tears in his eyes saying ‘That was me’, it was pretty funny, it was good.”
Was there a step-up in competition against the Victorian boys, some of the high-end draftees?
“We played against Sandringham Dragons at Sandringham one game and they touched us up by about 100 points. “But I was lucky enough to play on Ryan Byrnes, I think he got drafted to St Kilda.
“So I learned heaps from him, just his inside game, the way he positions his body – you just learn so much off those great players which then you can take and bring into your own game.”
Growing up, did you play any other sports?
“I actually played cricket. My Dad was a mad cricket player as well so I played cricket from about Under 14s to about Under 16s, I played three years there. “I loved it but I had to just put it aside for now just to focus on footy. It’s a bit tough doing those two sports at this time.”
Are you doing Year 12 at the moment as well?
No, I graduated last year. “I’m just having a year off, trying to save up money. “I’ve got a part-time job at Dominos as a delivery boy, it’s good.”
So you’re still doing that, they’re still open at the moment?
“Yeah, I’m doing four to five shifts a week just trying to save up.”
Outside of footy, is there anything else you’re working on?
“I’ve been looking at TAFE courses because I like architecture and draft design. “I did graphics when I was at school and it’s an interest of mine.”