Tag: qna

Q&A: Ally Morphett & India Lehman (Murray Bushrangers)

THE 2021 NAB League Girls season bounces down on Saturday, and Draft Central‘s coverage of the elite talent pathway is heating up. We chatted to a raft of prospects at the recent NAB League Girls preseason testing day, hosted by Rookie Me, with a running theme between the players their eagerness to get back to competitive action after an 11-month layoff.

Murray Bushrangers products Ally Morphett and India Lehman were among them, two top-agers keen to show their worth in 2021 as draft-eligible talents. Morphett is a ruck/key forward who was named in this year’s AFLW Academy, while Lehman is a roving small who runs through the midfield and forwardline.

Check out what they had to say on the season ahead in a Q&A special, with video content from their Bushies teammates set to hit our YouTube channel in the coming days.

>> 2021 Season Preview: Murray Bushrangers 

Q&A

Q: What has your footballing journey been like so far?

Morphett (AM): “It started in 2018, I got asked by one of my school teachers to come and play school footy. “I’ve been around footy my whole life, my family and parents have always been into it so why not? (I) just jumped into it, had a go. “I suppose my parents and coaches saw potential in me and I got invited to Riverina trials and it just kept going further and further from then, on.”

Lehman (IL): “I started back when I was a young one, my local town had a little Auskick program happening. “There wasn’t very many of us, there were only a couple of little girls running around. “I remember only one of my close mates was with me then, running around the Auskick field. “There was a bit of primary school footy after and mainly school footy got me into where I am now.”

Q: What kind of role or position are you looking to play this season?

AM: “Most people see me more as a ruck but I would like to be a bit more of a versatile player and be more a key forward as well. “(Playing forward) is fun but I do enjoy both roles very much.”

IL: “I’ll look to hopefully play in the midfield, keep in my position there. “I look to be a better player each game, improving my game, learning more skills and applying them.”

Q: What are your best on-field strengths?

AM: “My strengths would probably be strength in the air and in the ruck… and probably just a big kick as well.”

IL: “My strengths I’d see as speed, I’ve definitely got that on me. “I’m good to just pick up the ball, get on the burners and take on the grass, taking on the game.”

Q: What are you still looking to improve on?

AM: “Obviously my marking, there’s always room for improvement in every area but probably my marking most. “I’d like to be a lot more strong.”

IL: “I’m looking to build on just overall endurance to keep running as long as possible, as much as I can. “And I guess you can never have clean enough hands.”

Q: Who have been your biggest inspirations?

AM: “Definitely my parents – my parents work just as hard as me, if not more. “They commit a lot to me playing football, they have to miss out on work all the time and I don’t know how they manage to get time to take me to games and training and everything, so I appreciate their help.”

IL: Definitely Tayla Harris, making an image in the AFLW world for all the young girls. “And in recent events, Tarni Evans, coming from the club that I’m playing for and making it into the big leagues is pretty inspiring.”

Q: What are some of your goals for 2021?

AM: “Just to keep pushing through and trying to get better and better every time because there’s always room for improvement. “And probably just to be a more versatile player.”

IL: “The goal is to just have an injury-free season, get through the season and hopefully get noticed really.”

Q: What has the travel factor been like for you over your journey?

AM: During preseason we did two and a half hours down to Wangaratta just for training, around twice a week. “Then obviously during season we had to travel about five hours up to Melbourne for games and sometimes two and a half for local games at Wangaratta. “Canberra’s around the same.”

Q: How good was it being able to play football during 2020?

AM: “Lucky we live where we do because we travel down to Victoria and since coronavirus happened, luckily enough Canberra kept pushing through with their football so we were lucky enough to put our time into their league and travel down there every week.”

Murray Bushrangers Talent Operations Lead Mick Wilson on…

Morphett: “Ally’s a very talented sportsperson. “She competes really well, is really skilled. “She competes well above her head and has played football for a while now so has the footy nous.”

Lehman: “India Lehman is a smaller player. “She’s a rover/defensive pressure forward. “All these girls are really talented players, we didn’t get to see much of them last year, but we’ve got a really good opportunity to see them this year which is great.”

Your questions answered – Draft Central’s pre-draft Q&A

YESTERDAY we asked you to send in all your last-minute questions ahead of the 2020 AFL Draft to be answered on our YouTube channel, with those initial enquiries touched on during the Q&A session which you can find here, and linked below. The questions spilled over after the time of recording but not to worry, AFL Draft Editor Michael Alvaro is on hand to get to all of your pressing questions ahead of draft day.

Q&A:

Q: Do you think it’s worth Fremantle trying to move up the draft order and chase a key position forward? Maybe trade Pick 12 and a future first rounder to try and get a Logan McDonald, or that kind of talent? – From Christopher on Facebook
A: Hi Christopher, there was certainly plenty of early talk surrounding whether Fremantle would look to trade up and snare McDonald in particular. That has cooled of late and it is difficult to see the Dockers having enough to trade up into the top three-to-five picks while also keeping their current NGA talents in mind. A key position player could well still come into consideration with Pick 12 nonetheless.

Q: Is Noah Gadsby a chance of going? – From Zac on Instagram
A: There are plenty of Geelong Falcons products in draft contention, Noah Gadsby being one of them. He missed out on a draft combine invite but will be known to clubs having been part of the Vic Country state academy hub and blitzed preseason testing.

Q: Is Tahj Abberley any hope of being drafted? – From Nathan on Instagram
A: Hi Nathan, Tahj is a player the Draft Central team has rated highly for a long time. He seems to have done all he could this year in terms of performance, but this year’s draft presents a tough squeeze at the back-end. His form at each level and nice blend of traits should have him in the mix, even for other clubs should Brisbane opt against taking him on.

Q: Where will Fraser Rosman be selected? – From @8phila on Instagram
A: Fraser Rosman looms as quite a prospective pick out of this year’s crop, but has all the raw athletic traits which clubs will love. He looks like a later pick or ideal rookie option given how few runs he has been able to put on the board, but his upside and potential may see a club jump early at the tall forward/wingman.

Q: How are Clayton Gay and Will Bravo looking in the draft? – From Zac on Instagram
A: These are arguably Dandenong’s best prospects in 2020 and both shape as players with nice traits to develop at the next level. Clayton is a versatile type who can play up either end and is more of a natural footballer in the way he goes about it, good smarts and footy IQ. Will has greater athletic traits, but is still developing other areas of his game. They are both different players, but expect them to be in the mix in the late stages of the draft or rookie draft.

Q: What pick is Tanner Bruhn going? – From Harris on Instagram
A: Bruhn is poised among such an interesting bunch at the top-end, and his final placing could change drastically depending on which clubs jump on midfielders within the top 10. He could potentially land between picks six and 10, or even slide into the teens – but unlikely any further.

Q: Who is the best ruck prospect and where will they go? – From Arjun on Twitter
A: Riley Thilthorpe could be considered the best ruck prospect, but sees himself as more of a key forward and second ruck option. He has been linked with Adelaide’s first pick and the overall top 10. Elsewhere, West Australian Shannon Neale is a second round chance with nice upside as a lean ruck/forward, while Max Heath could bustle his way into contention after showing massive preseason improvement.

Q: Are rumours of Will Phillips wanting to stay in Victoria going to push him down to Essendon’s picks? – Arjun on Twitter
A: There are plenty of rumours which fly around at this time of year. There is not too much to suggest Phillips poses a massive flight risk, which is often attached to Vic Metro prospects. He could join former Oakleigh teammates Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson at Gold Coast, and is certainly a top five talent.

>> Watch the video Q&A below

Q&A: Blake Howes (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last few weeks, we head back to the pre-season where we sat down with a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Michael Alvaro chatted with Sandringham Dragons’ Blake Howes at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me.

The medium-forward prospect impressed during last year’s Under 16 National Championships, hitting the scoreboard as a hard-working, high-marking lead-up option in Vic Metro’s undefeated carnival winning side. Howes will be looking to crack into Sandringham’s Under 18 line-up this season, and is one of eight Dragons currently involved in the Victorian Academy hubs.

Read what the impressive bottom-ager had to say about his journey so far and the year ahead in our latest Q&A.

>> CATCH UP ON ALL OUR FEATURES

Q&A:

 

MA: Blake, how’s the day been so far?

BH: “Pretty good. We’re just doing the multiple different tests, I’ve enjoyed it with the boys. It’s been a good day so far.”

 

In terms of your footy you’re coming off a strong Under 16 campaign, how was the week up in Queensland for you?

“It was a good week up on the Gold Coast. We played at the GABBA and Southport – which was pissing down that day, terrible weather – but I really enjoyed the week, meeting new guys and different coaches. It was a really, really good experience, I loved it.”

 

Are you looking to crack into the Sandringham Under 18 side now?

“Yes, for sure. Hopefully I get a few games here and there but I’ve just got to continue to work hard, keep training well and hope to impress the coaches.”

 

What kind of role are you looking to lock down?

“Probably that half-forward (role) high up the ground. Just using my work-rate, getting up and down the ground.”

 

Are there any goals you’re looking to tick off along the way?

“No, just to keep playing consistent footy I suppose. Showing what I can do and helping the team out. Just to have fun as well, that’s the main thing.”

Q&A: Youseph Dib (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last few weeks, we head back to the pre-season where we sat down with a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Michael Alvaro chatted with Oakleigh Chargers’ Youseph Dib at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me.

There may not be much of the Collingwood Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect at 172cm, but he is well-built for his size and makes up for it with tenacious two-way effort. After earning All Australian honours at last year’s Under 16 National Championships in a stacked Vic Metro side, Dib also managed to crack into the premiership-winning Oakleigh line-up for one outing late in the 2019 season.

While he is able to win his own ball and impact contests from as high as the wing or through midfield, Dib will more likely feature as a small forward for Oakleigh this year in between school football commitments with Caulfield Grammar. Read what the impressive bottom-ager had to say about his journey thus far and the year ahead in our latest Q&A.

>> CATCH UP ON ALL OUR FEATURES

Q&A:


MA: Youseph, how’s the day been for you so far?

YD: “Not too bad, it’s been a pretty long day. There’s a lot of boys out here, it’s good to see your competition and where everyone’s at. I’ve just got the yo-yo (test) left and then we’re good to go home.”

 

Is that one you’re looking forward to or dreading?

“Probably dreading. But one thing I’ve been working on in the off-season a lot is my fitness, so I’m excited to see where I’m at and see how I compare to before preseason.”

 

Coming off a really good Under 16 campaign, how did you enjoy the carnival up in Queensland?

“Yes, a good experience. I felt like the difference between our year and maybe some others was that our (group) really jelled well together. We had a really broad range of talent and as soon as we got on the ground, it didn’t take long for us to know each other. We just connected well and our chemistry was up there.”

 

There were plenty of fellow Oakleigh boys as well, did that make the connection easier?

“Definitely. We had about 10 or 11 there and I’ve been training with them for the last few months. But I also felt like we were leaders there and helped some of the other boys who didn’t have too many (others) from their regions. After a couple of training sessions everyone was all mixed together between regions which was one of the reasons why our chemistry was so high.”

 

Given you can go and win your own ball, which position do you see yourself fitting in best at Oakleigh now?

“I’ve been working a lot in the forward (group), so a small forward around some of the talls. I’m hoping to play a bit of midfield, a bit of wing. Playing up and down the ground and working on my fitness so I can be a bit more broad.”

 

You’d have some great mentors as part of the Collingwood Next Generation Academy, how has that been for your development?

“It’s been very good. Reef McInnes, who’s a year older than me as well, when I first came in I was pretty quiet and didn’t really know anyone and he really brought me in. Every training session he gets around all the younger boys with the new (Under) 15s coming in, he’s a very good leader. With ‘Daics’ (Nick Daicos) and Reef training at Oakleigh as well, it helps because we know each other so well… the NGA training has been pretty high-intensity which has been brought up a lot this year.”

 

What kind of goals are you looking to set out this year?

“Most of my year will be played out at school footy which I haven’t really done before, so I’m excited to see what the competition is like there and hopefully I can bring up my stats and fill out my role in the team. It’ll be a pretty long year (with) a lot of small goals, but my main goal from the off-season was my fitness. I’m excited to see what I’m like on the ground and where I’m at.”

Q&A: Tyler Sonsie (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last few weeks, we head back to the pre-season where we sat down with a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Michael Alvaro chatted with Eastern Ranges’ Tyler Sonsie at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me.

The classy midfielder was a standout at last year’s Under 16 National Championships, earning the MVP award in Vic Metro’s undefeated carnival-winning side. His form was enough to warrant selection in the back-end of Eastern’s run to the NAB League grand final, with Sonsie featuring six times and employed mostly on a wing or up forward. His eye for goal and clean skills make him a dual-pronged threat through midfield, able to hit the scoreboard and cause real damage with ball in hand, credit to his remarkable vision and smarts.

>> CATCH UP ON OUR FEATURES

Q&A:


MA: Tyler, you’re sitting this one out, what have you picked up?

TS: “I’ve got a back issue at the moment, yes.”

 

Has that hampered your preseason at all or is it more of a recent thing?

“It affected (preseason) at the start but I got into a bit more training lately… I should be back for Round 2 or 3.”

 

Coming off a really successful Under 16 National Championship, it must have been a great experience for you?

“Yes, it was a great experience with a lot of good people as well. Good boys.”

 

Where will you be looking to play as you keep breaking into the Eastern side, more forward or through midfield?

“Mostly through the midfield this year. Hopefully forward as well.”

 

How was it playing at NAB League level as a 16-year-old last year?

“Yes, (I had) a lot of mates there, it was a great experience as well to be in there. Really good.”

 

What are some of the things you’re looking to develop or add to your game at the moment?

“Just more the defensive side of things. Defensive transitions, to get back and help the team out a bit more.”

 

Being in the Vic Metro hub, are you looking to break into the Under 18 side this year?

“Yes, definitely. I’ll try my best.”

 

Who are some of the guys you’re looking forward to playing alongside?

Reef McInnes, Josh Clarke, Will Phillips and all them, they’re good kids.”

Q&A: Henry Walsh (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last few weeks, we head back to the pre-season where we sat down with a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Michael Alvaro chatted with Geelong Falcons’ Henry Walsh at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me.

The brother of Carlton midfielder and 2018 number one draft pick, Sam, cuts a much different figure to his elder sibling as a loping 202cm ruckman, and remains quite raw in terms of his development. While he thrives in his ruck craft having averaged 27.3 hitouts across 13 NAB League games as a bottom-ager, Walsh is constantly working on his impact around the ground as he expands his endurance base. The St Joseph’s junior represented Vic Country at Under 16 level and already cracked the Under 18 side in 2019, capping off his year with an appearance in the Under 17 All Star clash on AFL Grand Final day.

He is quite the unique character and is seldom shy to have a crack. Read up on what Walsh had to say during preseason about his development, opportunities afforded to him through the AFL Academy, and the year ahead with the Falcons.

>> CATCH UP ON OUR FEATURES

Q&A:


MA: Henry, how has the day been for you?

HW: “Today’s been pretty good.”

 

Which of the tests are you looking to excel in or improve on at the moment?

“The vertical jump for sure, love that.”

 

Pretty important in the ruck?

“Yeah.”

 

How has the preseason been so far?

“It’s been real good, thank you.”

 

On-field, how do you think your game’s coming along?

“It’s developing each game which is real good.”

 

Obviously he plays a much different role, but has your brother (Sam) helped that at all over the past few years?

“Yeah, especially through my running and positioning around the ground. It’s been real good.”

 

I’m sure you tapped a few down to him at preseason training with Carlton as well, it must’ve been good to get down there?

“It was. It was real good, a great experience.”

 

How has being part of the Vic Country hub been for you?

“It’s been real good, seeing how all the other boys from different areas for Vic Country have been.”

 

You’re part of a talented group at the Falcons too, you’ve played a lot together already. Are you looking to bounce back after a bit of a down year?

“Oh yeah bloody oath. Hopefully (we) get a few more wins.”

Q&A: Josh Rachele (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last few weeks, we head back to the pre-season where we sat down with a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Michael Alvaro chatted with Murray Bushrangers’ Josh Rachele at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me.

The electric midfielder/forward was a standout at last year’s Under 16 National Championships, captaining Vic Country en route to earning the Kevin Sheehan Medal as Division 1 MVP. His form warranted a call-up to the Bushrangers’ NAB League side, where Rachele booted eight goals in four games in the back-end of the season. With a full athletic package and freaking skills to boot, the 178cm prospect is set to hit the ground running again in 2020, representing Murray and his new school, Caulfield Grammar once football resumes.

>> CATCH UP ON OUR FEATURES

Q&A:


MA: Josh, have you had a good day so far with the testing?

JR: “Yes, so far it’s been pretty good, a good experience. I hit a couple of PB’s (personal bests) which is alright but overall the Murray boys have been doing pretty (well) which is good.”

 

Coming off a MVP-winning Under 16 campaign as captain, what has it been like moving into the Murray Under 18s program?

“Obviously there were a lot of high hopes for this season so the main goal is to just play well early. I’ve had a pretty good preseason so far, the first couple of goals will be to get into the Vic Country squad and hopefully play a game. But really, just to develop my game as well.”

 

Where do you see your best position being, having played through the midfield and up forward thus far?

“I’d probably say at the moment probably that fifth/sixth role, that forward-flanker who gets up the ground, then goes deep. Next year I’ll hopefully get a few more minutes in the midfield but this season, hopefully just through the forward line.”

 

Who are some of the Murray-listed players you’re looking forward to playing alongside?

“Number one would have to have been Elijah Hollands, but it’s unfortunate with his ACL (injury). But just to learn off him this year, he’s going to do a bit of coaching at Vic Country and the Bushrangers so he’s going to have eyes, just watching me and I’ll ask for advice, especially with the resilience he’s going to have to build.

“Also Zavier Maher, he’s probably going to be in the leadership group at Caulfield Grammar this year. He’s been a big part of my Caulfield journey so far and I’ve been doing a lot of extras with him.”

 

What has the transition to Caulfield been like?

“I think there was about four or five Murray Bushrangers guys already there so that made my move pretty easy. I knew a few day-schoolers already but that main connection with the Bushrangers boys helped me move in pretty smoothly.”

 

It must be great also having a connection with your Under 16 teammates, moving into this year and your top-age season in 2021?

“Yes, next year will probably be one of the biggest years of my life. A lot of high expectations really, but (I’ll look to) have another good preseason and start early. No major goals, just to get into the Vic Country squad again and move from there.”

 

Are there any other little goals you’re looking to tick off?

“We have the Australia (Under 17) game coming up in April, so that will be a goal just to play well there and get a win with the boys which would be an unreal experience. Then to play the Under 17s game on Grand Final day, that’s it really.”

Q&A: Will Papley (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last few weeks, we head back to the pre-season where we sat down with a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Michael Alvaro chatted with Gippsland Power’s Will Papley at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me.

The small forward got on the park nine times during Gippsland’s 2019 NAB League regular season before being hampered by a hip injury, eventually returning in the Power’s preliminary final loss. While he has battled a similar setback during preseason, Papley is raring to get stuck back into his usual forward role, with an eye on progressing into the midfield on the back of a greater endurance base. He has as good a mentor as any to help him through the journey too, with brother, Tom among the best smalls at the elite level.

>> CATCH UP ON OUR FEATURES

Q&A:


MA: Will, you’re sitting out the testing today?

WP: “Yes. I’ve got a hip injury, just some inflammation around the ball and socket at the moment. It’s getting better though, so should be alright for (Round 1).”

 

How’s the preseason been apart from that?

“I’ve had a few injuries. I had shin splints early in preseason, pre-Christmas and then missed all the fitness testing. So I haven’t really done much lately but I’m maintaining my adductors and keeping strong around there.”

 

You got out on the park for 10 NAB League games last year, how was that?

“It was good. Obviously missing a few games from the same injury, my hip was pretty disappointing but getting back for one last game in the prelim was a good experience, but it was pretty disappointing that we lost.”

 

Gippsland had a really talented squad last year, how was it being able to run out alongside the likes of Caleb Serong and Sam Flanders?

“Those boys really led the way a lot, they taught me a lot of new things and they were really role models to me. I really looked up to them.”

 

Having played the small forward role, are you looking to change it up this year or keeping going with more of the same?

“I’ve been talking to my head coach at Gippy, Rhett (McLennan). He wants to play me more midfield, but earlier in the season I’ll probably play more forward to build up my tank just so I can get more endurance and move into the midfield.”

 

Is that endurance something you’re looking to improve on given you’ve missed a good chunk of preseason?

“Yes. The tank is always been one of the downsides to my game. I’ve never really been the best runner but I always push myself as hard as I can every contest.”

 

What are some of the strengths in your game?

“Definitely finishing for goal, tackling pressure – mainly forward pressure. But I’m working both ways, up and down the ground a little bit.”

 

A little like your brother (Tom)?

“A little bit.”

 

You don’t like the comparison?

“No not really, but I suppose you’ve got to take it.”

 

How has he been as a mentor to you, does he give you many tips?

“Definitely. I go up (to Sydney) a fair bit and he takes me through the rooms, through the coaches area so I learn a fair bit from him.”

 

 

Q&A: Seamus Mitchell (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last few weeks, we head back to the pre-season where we sat down with a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Michael Alvaro chatted with Bendigo Pioneers’ Seamus Mitchell at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me.

The crafty small forward impressed towards the back-end of last year’s NAB League season, getting on the park five times for the Pioneers to return a haul of six goals. Mitchell possesses great speed and goal sense, which has put him right in contention for more representative action having already run out for Vic Country at Under 17 level, and earned a spot in the 2020 AFL Academy hub. The 180cm prospect battled a knee injury during preseason, which meant he was touch-and-go for a Round 1 return at the time.

>> CATCH UP ON OUR FEATURES

Q&A:

 

MA: How’s the day been so far, Seamus?

SM: “It’s been pretty good, enjoying it. I’m not doing much… (I’ve got) a knee injury but it’ll come good pretty soon.”

 

Other than that, has the preseason been okay and will you be ready for Round 1?

“Yes, all good… (and) possibly, we don’t know yet. We’ll see.”

 

Coming off a promising bottom-age year, what do you think were some of the strengths you were able to showcase?

“Probably my speed and a little bit of athleticism. I don’t really think about it too much.”

 

Where do you like playing most, are you looking to still lock down a forward role?

“Yes, half-forward or maybe even the wing role throughout the year.”

 

What kind of things are you working on as a top-ager?

“Probably my cleanliness with ground balls and that sort of stuff.”

 

How is being around the Vic Country hub developing your game?

“Heaps. Even outside of footy as well, I probably need to be more confident and that sort of thing so it’s helped.”

>> MORE BENDIGO PIONEERS CONTENT

Get to Know: Nicholas Kraemer (South Adelaide/South Australia)

SOUTH ADELAIDE boasts a handful of Under 18 products within this year’s State Academy hub, and one of the deeper overall lists for its junior age bracket. Among the Panthers’ top-age stars gunning for AFL Draft contention in 2020 is Nicholas Kraemer, a big-bodied inside midfielder who has been a mainstay in the South Australian (SA) state system. The 185cm prospect was in line to make his senior footballing debut this year after running out for a Reserves trial match during preseason, but like all prospects around the nation, was forced to momentarily put his aspirations on hold.

But with SANFL football set to return on June 27, and an unconfirmed national carnival looming in October, Kraemer and his fellow South Australians will get to strut their stuff soon enough. Kraemer has done plenty of that throughout his journey already, playing in every game of South Adelaide’s run to the 2019 SANFL Under 18 Grand Final, while also taking part in SA’s championship-winning Under 16 campaign a year earlier. This season, he is hoping to play every game for the SA Under 18 side as a key figure.

While he is most comfortable through midfield, Kraemer is able to play up either end of the ground credit to his defensive prowess and physical presence, but is looking to improve his endurance and speed to better impact through the engine room. As one of the rare Under 18 hopefuls to have already completed his schooling, Kraemer has been able to channel his focus into football while juggling a job at his family business, and has plenty of people to lean on as he strives to prove any doubters wrong.

Draft Central’s Michael Alvaro chatted with the promising youngster during lockdown about his journey so far, the lockdown experience, goals for the future, and plenty more. Check out how the Reynella junior is tracking along in anticipation of his return to the footy field.

THE JOURNEY TO THIS POINT

MA: Nick, where did your footy journey start?

NK: “Firstly, I played footy for my own local footy club. My cousin started playing there when he was young and I was probably about three years old. We didn’t know where to go so we just chose that footy club and I ended up playing there for three years.

“Then I started playing basketball as well, so I was heavily involved in basketball and one of my best mates there played for Reynella footy club so I went and played there. I played Under 13s, 14s, and 15s with South Adelaide and was still playing basketball at that time but it began to get too busy so I had to choose a sport.

“At about 15 I chose footy instead of basketball, played for South and luckily enough got asked to play for the State Under 16s, we were lucky enough to win that (championship) as well which was a good experience. Then I played 18s as a bottom-ager last year, made the grand final and now I’m playing 18s again.”

Having played every game in a side which made the SANFL Under 18 Grand Final, how did you rate your bottom-age year?

“I thought I played pretty well. I was a little bit slow at the start and then I found my mojo and stopped overthinking things. I started playing footy and not worrying so much, that’s when I started to find some form and the team started finding some form.

“We lost a fair few close games at the start and I think we went 8-0 to make the grand final. I felt like I had a bit of a slow start but pulled it in and finished off pretty strong I reckon.”


RISING THROUGH THE SA STATE ACADEMY

How has coming through the SA state system been for your development?

“I feel like it’s been really good. Playing 16s and being with the boys there, everyone’s familiar with each other at the minute and through the hub, everyone’s been so close and the standard have been so good so it makes you better.

“Everyone wants to get better but the standards are so high that you’re just pushing yourself so hard to match everyone. I feel like my development has gone a little bit further this year just being in that hub, and my fitness has grown heaps. It’s been really good this year and I’m enjoying it so far.”

You had a good group in that 2018 Under 16 squad who have come with you all the way to your Under 18 year, who are some of the boys you like to feed off and are familiar with?

“Probably Luke Edwards and Riley Thilthorpe. They’re very senior boys; Riley’s playing League at the moment and knows what he’s talking about, Luke plays a similar role to me – we play inside mid and can go down to half-back.

“I’m getting to learn off him and watch what he does as well, they’re probably the main two I try to watch, see what standards they bring and try to follow them in training.”


LIFE IN LOCKDOWN

Have you been able to keep in touch with the academy during lockdown?

“Yes. We’ve got a page where we can report what we do. With all this lockdown and footy being away we’ve had to post on there what we’ve been doing over the break; so what our gym workouts are, our conditioning workouts.

“(Under 18 Coach) Tony Bamford got us to cook dinner for the family and clean up, so everyone had to cook for their families and post it on there. We’ve got a group chat and we all stay pretty close with each other, and with the group chat it drives you to do your work instead of being left behind. It’s (helping to) keep in touch and get you motivated to keep doing your fitness and gym work so it’s been really good.”

What’d you cook for the family?

“I cooked burrito bowls.”

Nice, healthy?

“Yep.”

Some of the other states have been given tasks like picking out a player to base your game around, have you been given similar activities?

“We’ve done them. We’ve also had to (answer) ‘If we had to quarantine for two weeks, who would we quarantine with?’ – a coach and two players. We’ve had to base our game on AFL players and say why and all that sort of stuff.

“There’s always little activities that the coaches put in place so you’re not bored and you’re not forgetting about stuff so it’s good.”

How have you gone about keeping fit during lockdown, do you have a home gym?

“I’ve got a home gym in my lounge room. Funnily enough, my next door neighbour has a bench with a bench press, leg press and everything. We’ve borrowed it for the minute so he’s been really helpful with that.

“And just going for runs, I’m still keeping fit and keeping busy, if I’m bored I’ll just go into the gym and just do little things to keep my mind off other things.”


THE GAME OF NICK KRAEMER

Who have you chosen as the player you want to base your game on?

“I chose Josh Kennedy from Sydney. I feel like he’s a real inside mid which I play like at the minute. He’s a contested player, he gets his hands on the ball first and gives it out to the speedsters so I feel like that’s what I’m doing. I watch what he does, where he runs, and that sort of stuff.”

You’ve got the clearance game down pat, what are some of the things you see as your strengths at the moment?

“I’d probably say clean hands and I defend pretty well. I’m clean at ground level and I’m more of a defensive player than attacking. I feel like basketball has helped with that and defending people through basketball has got my one-on-one defence down pat and working really well. Those two are probably my biggest strengths.”

In terms of improvements, is getting generally fitter the main area?

“Yes, endurance and speed would be the two main weaknesses that I’ve been working on, growing up and getting feedback from coaches. I’ve got a sprint coach at the minute that I work with and I’m trying to work on that acceleration, the 0-5 metre sprint.

“Then endurance, as a midfielder you’ve got to be able to run so I’ll just keep developing my endurance so I can run and get to more contests.”


GOALS FOR 2020 AND BEYOND

Are you studying at all at the moment?

“No, I finished Year 12 last year. Mum and Dad have a gardening business so I work with them basically every day at the minute.

“I’d like to be a police officer if footy doesn’t pan out so this year was just to focus on footy and then next year if things don’t go well then I’ll apply for that and it’ll be my goal for next year as well as trying to make it in footy as well.”

Did you feel, coming into the year that being able to solely focus on footy would be an advantage for you?

“100 per cent. I reckon I had stuff to prove to everyone and that was probably my biggest motivation to show what I’ve been working on over the break. Coming into January over the Christmas break, I just wanted to show everyone what I’d been working on so now that it hasn’t panned out I’ve been able to develop my endurance a bit more so when footy does come back, I can just prove to the coaches what I’ve been doing.”

Do you have any idea of what level you’re going to be playing this year, firstly with South Adelaide and then with the state side?

“Hopefully (I’ll play for the SA Under 18s), that’s the goal. I did play one game of Reserves footy before all this happened. I played a trial match for the Reserves and had been training with the seniors before that.

“I got a Reserves gig and then the goal was to just make the state team and play every game. Hopefully that still goes ahead and I can play a couple of senior games too.”

In terms of your role, do you think you’ll still be working that inside midfield job, or will you be looking to move around the field?

“I feel like that’s my strongest area, inside mid. But I’m happy to go wherever, I can play a high half-forward which I played in the Reserves game and I liked.

“But then also playing that defensive role which is well-known to me, so inside mid and back are probably the likely two roles that I’ll play this year but we’ll see what happens with that forward role.”

Do you have any goals you’re looking to tick off, team-wise or individually?

“Team-wise is to hopefully go one better than we did last year and individually, probably just to make the state team. The overall goal is to get drafted but there’s little goals in front of that to make it come true. Just playing for the Under 18s first and if I get a gig in the Reserves or League, to play well there and crack into the state team, play well there have an impact in those games.”


LIVING IN THE UNKNOWN

What was it like at the start of lockdown knowing you might not be able to get on the park at all, having that unknown?

“The first two weeks it was a bit disappointing in a way that you don’t know what’s going to happen, or how then future’s going to unfold. But then after you get over the wall of not knowing what’s going to happen, you just get on your bike and start doing what you’re being told to do. We’ve had a program we’ve had to follow so I’m just doing that and doing extra stuff to be able to come back better than I was before.

“So it was a bit disappointing but then again, it was a good way to work on the stuff you’ve not been able to do because of the workload beforehand.”

On the flipside, you must’ve been pretty pumped to see the news of SANFL competition returning, what was your reaction to it?

“It was just very exciting to know that it was going to be coming back and it came back sooner than what we thought. Just excitement overall to be able to come back and train, see the faces at South, see the boys that we haven’t seen in a couple of months… and now play games, improve and hopefully make that state team.”

How long have you been back at training?

“Three weeks. Two weeks of non-contact with 10 people. We’ve had two sessions, an early session and a late session, the oval has been split up into thirds.

“This week has been the first contact training where we’ve been able to actually start tackling so this week’s been a lot better than the last couple where we’ve actually played some sort of footy.”

Is being able to play senior football at this stage an advantage for you over the interstate prospects?

“I feel like it’s good. Giving that exposure to young kids coming through where they can prove that they can play against bigger bodies and if they’re good enough, hold their spot and play there.

“That’s a goal for everyone and guys like Corey (Durdin) and Riley (Thilthorpe) have gone really well up there so hopefully they can keep playing well.”


MENTORS AND ROLE MODELS

Are there any key mentors who you look up to at the moment, whether it be through the state system, at South Adelaide, or your family?

“My whole family. My sister is a police officer, she pushes me to be the best I can be. She’s basically like a second mum, being a cop. Then my brother, he used to play footy when he was younger and gave it up to work more but he’s been helping me a lot with going out and having someone to kick with. My dad has been helping me a lot with that as well, we’ll go out and have a kick. Mum’s just the emotional support, she’s always there for me.

“I don’t really have a role model at AFL level because I kind of just want to model my game on myself, if that makes sense. But watching the big players and how they play is very eye-opening. Mark Clayton as well from South Adelaide has helped me a lot through the three years I’ve been with him and Tony (Bamford) has helped me a lot too, but family is probably the biggest role model at the minute.”

Is there anyone you’d like to thank for contributing to your footballing journey?

“I’d just like to thank South Adelaide mainly, they’ve been a big impact on how I’ve grown. Reynella footy club, where I’ve come from have also helped me a lot. And my family, all the coaches I’ve had – everyone’s been influential. The AFL hub academy, all the boys there have helped me a lot with growing, being a better player and a better person as well.”

FLINDERS UNIVERSITY STUDY

You partook in a study with Flinders University, can you tell me a little about that?

“It was about goalkicking. Dr Sam Elliott did a study on how juniors and seniors think through their routine and how they overthink things. We went in there and he told us what to do, we had sunglasses with cameras on them and all sorts of things where he could record stuff to make his study more accurate. It was pretty good, pretty interesting stuff.”

Do you have any results, has your goalkicking improved or was it good to start with?

“I feel like the further you go out, 30 metres is probably where everyone is most comfortable, but the further you go you start to think about kicking the ball too hard. I think the study has helped me with going through my routine, not trying to hit the ball so hard and picking out a target behind the goals to aim for.”

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