SIX rounds into the 2020 SANFL Under 18s season, Central Districts sat seventh at 1-5. To that point, the Bulldogs had only bettered winless cellar dweller West Adelaide in Round 2. Over the past fortnight, they’ve improved to 3-5 and remain just one game off the top four.
Across that very same two-week period, Northern Territory (NT) native Brodie Lake has settled into the side having moved south to pursue a greater wealth of opportunities in his top-age AFL draft year. It may be a coincidence that Centrals are two from two with Lake in the lineup, but it’s clear the Top End talent is making his mark.
Having arrived in South Australia on the first Monday of August, Lake was able to get straight into training and make his debut for the Bulldogs just five days later.
“This is my second week here. Our season is not on (back home) and NT Thunder got cancelled with the NAB League so I made the decision to come down, get my name out there and play some games,” Lake told Draft Central this week.
“I didn’t have to quarantine coming from Darwin but I had to get a test just to make sure. It was good to get straight into training and playing. I had training on Wednesday and Thursday, and then played on the weekend and got the win.”
The daunting factor of living away from home at just 18 years of age is somewhat aided by the fact he has experienced it all before. Lake lived with a host family in Western Australia while representing Peel Thunder during last year’s WAFL Colts competition, making eight appearances. While he has the distraction of football and is currently rooming with older brother, Keenan in South Australia, the youngster still leans on his prior travels to push through.
“(Moving to WA last year) definitely made it a lot easier, knowing I can live away from Mum and Dad… I’m living here with my brother so that’s good.
“For the first couple of months I don’t find it hard because I’m doing stuff and training, but towards the end when the season is about to finish I start missing home a little bit more.
“Mum, Dad and my brother are big helps. They just push me and encourage me to do stuff and they say ‘It’s up to you, it’s your dream, but we’ll help you and support you through it.'”
That dream of playing AFL football has been at the forefront of Lake’s mind since first representing the Thunder at Under 16s level in 2018. He did so once again in 2019, earning his side’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award for his efforts across the three-game Division 2 carnival.
“I started getting serious about it at Under 16s, my first year (with NT). I was like ‘Yeah, this is something I want to do.’
“I enjoyed playing with the boys back home, getting into the state side with them and getting to know them a bit more. It was good, especially to get All Australian, I was pretty happy with that.”
Congratulations to Brodie Lake who topped off his family affair during the NAB AFL Under 16 Championships by being named…
Having grown up in the Darwin zone, Lake is tied to the Gold Coast SUNS, though opted to continue his southern venture rather than represent the Queensland-based program in the current Academy Series.
“I haven’t heard much lately because of the virus obviously, but a couple of the boys are down there training with the academy now. I didn’t end up going because I talked to ‘Roey’ (NT Thunder Academy coach, Jason Roe) and Dad, we had a chat and they reckon it’s better for me to stay down here and get some game time.”
The medium-sized utility has had plenty of mentors to aid him as he traverses a path less travelled by, as well as teammates who have made each transition as smooth as possible. Lake played senior football alongside former AFL midfielders Ed and Michael Barlow at Southern Districts in the 2019/20 NTFL season, with senior coach Matt Cannard also playing a hand in his development as a midfielder.
Through the Palmerston Under 12s and the NT system, he played both with and against Jeffrey, and also got to know a bunch of other AFL draft hopefuls when selected in last year’s Under 17 Futures All Star showcase. One of them was current Centrals League gun Corey Durdin, while fellow Bulldogs Austin McDonald and Kobe Wilson have partnered him well through midfield at Under 18s level. Another Palmerston product, Jonty Patrick, who was set to join the Calder Cannons this season, has also made the trip down with him.
While there are a bunch of great minds and players alike to feed off, Lake also takes inspiration from GWS GIANTS midfielder Lachie Whitfield, who he models his game on. The similarities are there; the ability to accumulate on the spread, play on either side of midfield or off half-back, and run all day. Lake enjoys watching Whitfield so much, he even jumped ship from supporting Carlton to embrace the ‘Big Big Sound’ in Western Sydney.
As he blazes his own trail, the 18-year-old sees himself slotting in at half-back among an AFL side, with a good bunch of traits to help stamp his case as a genuine draft chance.
“(I’d fit in) at half-back I reckon… with my running off the backline, I use the ball well and read the play,” he said.
“I enjoy playing inside mid or outside, I love midfield.”
Of his strengths, Lake listed speed, agility, marking, and tackle pressure, while he is looking to improve on his timing and getting to as many contests as possible.
There have been many adjustments to be made too, from the cooler weather, to playing a different brand of football than he’s used to.
“It’s freezing. I just warm up in a jumper, and warm up extra obviously because my muscles are a bit colder… on-field here there’s more structure and (it’s played) in-close with bigger bodies. They move the ball faster too by hand and foot.”
As he further acclimatises across the second half of the SANFL season, Lake is looking to move up the grades and simply put his best foot forward in hopes of realising his ultimate dream. Should it fail to come to fruition in 2020, Lake says he is committed to putting in a full campaign down south next year in between duties with Southern Districts. With his current online Year 12 studies in tow, there is always a Plan B, too.
For now, it’s full steam ahead with exposure and time on the park paramount to his chances of reaching the elite level.
Lake sought to thank his parents, brother, Nan and Pop, aunties, uncles, and cousins, for all their support during his journey.