A year in the life of a draft hopeful – Part 1

The following story was shared with us here at the Almanac by the father of a boy on track for the AFL Draft in 2017. We’re quite privileged to be able to share what is a raw and affecting look at what life is like for just one of the many who strive for this dream every year. We hope you find it as informative and interesting as we have. It will be serialised over the coming weeks.

 

This is the covering note we received from the author:

 

I’m not really sure why I started writing this.  And it certainly wasn’t something that I set out to do.

 

Some time in January 2017, probably early one morning before work, I typed out the first few words.

 

Then each week, or few days, or whenever something happened that may (or may not) have seemed significant at the time, I added to it.

 

So why did I do it?

 

Perhaps it was just that it had been a bit of a journey to get to this point… that journey had pretty much come down to this final year.

 

I suppose it was just a case of being able to look back on it at the end of the year, regardless of how it finished.

 

Anyway, finished it has, and here is the result.

 

 

2017 – A Year in the Life…

 

January

 

It’s now his eighteenth year. A year, apart from being the year that he would get his license, had absolutely no other significance until a couple of years ago.

 

In fact, it was more like only around nine months ago, that his ‘eighteenth’ year began to become ‘the’ year.

 

Two years ago he didn’t want to return to U16 pre-season training with Oakleigh.

 

I made him do it; much to his immense annoyance; because he had promised, just three months earlier, that he would rock up each week without whinging.

 

As much as I would have liked to have forsaken the long and slow drive to Oakleigh for training, I needed to teach him a lesson in commitment.

 

For the next two weeks, he didn’t speak to me on the drive down.

 

Eventually, however, we did end up back on speaking terms. Mainly because on one of the drives down there, I gave it to him.  Absolutely paid out on him and told him I’d had enough. An attitude realignment, if you like.

 

A couple of months later, and after a very limited and altered training program (mainly due to cricket), he made the ‘final 30’ at Oakleigh.

 

Nice achievement.

 

He was then invited to try out for the U16 Vic Metro carnival to be played on the Gold Coast in July later that year.

 

Great achievement.

 

Which just added to the running around to various places for training and trial matches…

 

He then made the team.

 

Great achievement had turned into unbelievable achievement.  I was stunned.

 

It was around this time that cricket was starting to go from first preference, to second preference.

 

Hmm…

 

So later in the year, Oakleigh U18 try outs began. Having played in the Metro 16’s, it wasn’t so much whether he would make the list, but more about how many games would he get to play as a bottom ager.

 

I wasn’t sure he’d get too many; others around him thought he’d play most.

 

The others were right; he ended up playing 16 of the 18 games for the year and it would be fair to say that he was very good.

 

He certainly impressed a lot of people, me included.

 

So now, 2017 – his eighteenth year – had become so much more.

 

The first day of the year saw us spending time down the beach. But he was at a different location to the rest of us, because, well, we’re boring and no fun. He’s growing up.

 

Oh well, he needs his space, and he needs to learn a little about life.

 

The learning curve became rather steep when he didn’t return on the day he was supposed to.

 

Attitude and responsibility realignment delivered and a promised return a few days later actually happened.

 

Ah, back on track.

 

So, the rest of the month included –

 

  • Wants to buy a $15,000 car. Yep, his first car. He has $16,000 saved up. (He can’t understand why, first of all, it’s not a good idea, and secondly, that it’s not going to work.)

 

  • Football training’s started, on a slightly reduced basis so as to fit in cricket; everyone was happy: cricket club, Oakleigh, and more importantly, me.

 

  • Driving him around also seemed to take a bit of a step up. Work pick up due to awkward locations, the cricket and football thing, as well as lifts to various social outings. Usually at very ordinary and inconvenient times. Also lifts to the gym which is about a 10 minute walk away.

 

Yes, on that one, I should’ve used the foot that I have and put it down.  I know, I know…

 

By not doing that, the delivering/pick ups went from being requested, to being expected.

 

Yep, not sure anyone else made my bed, but a little appreciation shouldn’t need to be asked for…

 

 

February

 

  • He now has a player manager! While it guarantees nothing, it’s kind of adding to the whole ‘eighteenth’ year thing.

 

He also has an invite to the U18 Vic Metro carnival. Sort of, kind of, expected that, but to be one of only 28 initial invitees, it’s quite the hat with a feather in it.

 

  • Cricket; well, now it’s not as much fun, apparently.

 

Losing is not helping that, along with a perceived unfairness coming from those that matter in the team. The cricket team had probably over-achieved before Christmas, but were now finding things a little difficult.  There’s a few reasons for this, but initially the reaction was one of, “I don’t want to play cricket anymore!” along with, “I need to play all the practice matches because the Vic Metro coaches will be watching and it will help me get drafted”.

 

It wasn’t an alarm bell that I heard, but there was a stirring of a brain cell or two, that normally don’t stir too much.

 

  • A re-thinking on the ‘first car’ issue. Didn’t speak to me; quite often doesn’t – prefers to go through mum for some reason; but the thinking was now along the lines of – “I don’t know whether I should get a ute now, because if I get drafted, well, I won’t really need it”.

 

The brain cells were now well and truly stirring, due to the noise of the bell going off in my head.

 

He’s not getting ahead of himself, is he?  Surely not…

 

It did however give me the opportunity to re-explain that perhaps a cheaper car would be a good idea, seeing as the whole drafting thing now seemed like it could be more a reality, than a possibility.

 

He seemed to agree. Hmm, a small win perhaps?

 

That was until three days later when he mentioned that no, he still intended to spend over $10,000, as he now had $18,000 in the bank.

 

Oh, and he also wanted to know how he would go about arranging a new exhaust, along with new rims, for this yet-to-be-purchased car.

 

I’m not sure who’s had enough at this stage; my head or the brick wall…

 

Got to the second last game of the cricket season. In a bit of trouble now with trying to get to the finals, and to make things a little more difficult, they were now up against the undefeated top team.

 

Even though I wanted the 1s to make finals, I wouldn’t be overly unhappy if they didn’t.  From a purely selfish point of view, not making finals would make it far easier from a football perspective.  It would give him a couple of weeks off before the season started and it would also allow him to fulfill all his football commitments.

 

It was all going swimmingly, until at the end of week one of that second last game, they were well on top. Chasing 140 odd, they were 1/60 at stumps.

 

Eighty to get, nine wickets in hand.

 

Fait accompli? Would have thought so.

 

So we had another discussion about how he would end the season.

 

The plan, as I understood it, (no doubt would have changed, seeing as his mind seems to change with the wind) was that, assuming they would win this game, he’d let his captain know prior to the last game, that he wouldn’t be available for the finals.

 

That would give him the opportunity to pick his ‘finals’ side for that last round.

 

The conversation that was going to happen, never eventuated. The cricketing Gods, or the lack of batting ability of the East Doncaster First XI, intervened and defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory.

 

Bowled out for 104, it was quite frankly pretty dismal, if not humiliating…

 

And the boy? First ball duck.

 

Hating cricket much? Despising it, I’d suspect.

 

Not at all happy, but at least the decision has been made for him.

 

 

About Scott Jones

Previous junior football match report writer, now part time travel writer about our trips to Vietnam.

Comments

  1. craig dodson says:

    Raw and honest..really enjoyed the read. Looking forward to part 2. Glad to see footy and cricket could coexist at least to some extent.

  2. Thanks Craig, appreciate it. Yes, cricket and footy can sort of co-exist. But neither really like it. Which I think is really sad.

  3. Peter_B says:

    Agree with CD. Great insights. Generous but to the point. I have about 5 alternate endings in my head, but I know – its the journey; the journey……..
    Can’t wait for the next instalment to see what happens to Batman (and assorted Robins).

  4. Thanks very much, Peter. And yes, it’s always about the journey. Although at this point, I had no idea where we were going.

  5. Stainless says:

    A fascinating story Scott. One any parent can relate to, whether their kid’s a draftee hopeful or an anything-else hopeful. The journey’s the thing that’s for sure.

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