Diary of a “Recruit” reject

With the highly anticipated AFL-based reality television show “The Recruit” starting on FOX8 tonight, I thought I would give an insight into the try-out day in Melbourne way back in February.

After applying online after a big night on the town, I received an email a couple of months later notifying me that I had been successful and would be flown from Darwin to Melbourne for a try-out.

I’ve never believed I have the ability to play football at AFL level, but I thought the try-out day would be a bit of fun.

I didn’t have unrealistic expectations so how could I refuse an all-expenses paid trip to the home of football?

I am not much of a fan of air travel so I was fortunate enough to sleep through most of the typically arduous four-hour flight.

Our group was welcomed at the airport by a guy holding up a sign that read “The Recruit”. I felt like a celebrity for the first and probably last time in my life.

We were chaperoned directly to our hotel, which was only walking distance from the Collingwood Football Club headquarters.

We were met by a representative from the show to fill out a truckload of paperwork before being sent to a room for a brief chat with the producers.

After a four-hour sleep on Saturday night I had a quick bite to eat before walking across the bridge to the Westpac Centre with the interstate group.

We were the first group up and after a solid warm-up we launched into the 20 metre sprint test.

The first bloke up was a solidly built bloke from Western Australia and he recorded a time of 2.84 seconds, which set a high standard for the rest of the group.

We had three attempts at it and I posted a time of 2.91 seconds which I was reasonably happy with.

After this it was time to put our football boots on and head out onto the oval for the football component of the day.

Under the watchful eyes of Anthony Rock and Darren Crocker we undertook a kicking test that was not unlike the Nathan Buckley test that is used at the draft camp.

After that it was on to a challenging endurance activity that involved heavy tyres, sledgehammers and sleds with weights packed on top.

That got the boys buggered for activity number three which was essentially a mini-game with limited contact.

After that we went to a handball station overseen by ex-Collingwood star Paul Licuria and former VFL player Fortunato Caruso and did basic drills that tested our ball-handling and vision.

The last of the football drills was a decision making activity that involved four attacking players and two defenders.

It is fair to say that the best, or worst depending on one’s perspective, was saved for last: the tackling.

This station was run by an intimidating looking character who is one of the Melbourne Storm assistant coaches and he put us through a tortuous four-minute sumo-like activity that left me feeling dizzy with fatigue.

The 41 degree temperature did not help but being a Darwin boy I told myself to toughen up and push on.

After another couple of drills it was finally over and we were sent back inside for recovery, which consisted of ice baths and some pool work.

The final part of the day was a recorded interview where we were asked to introduce ourselves and explain our motives for applying for the show.

Knowing that my talent, or lack thereof, would not be enough to get me through, I tried to place an emphasis on the fact that I was one of the few people from Northern Territory to apply for the show.

Clearly this was unsuccessful because a couple of weeks later we were sent an email confirming that we did not get to the next selection phase.

Although I did not expect to make it through to the show, I often wonder about how the selection process actually worked.

I do not believe that the try-out day was comprehensive enough to get an accurate assessment on a player’s ability.

So surely Michael Voss and his team did their homework before choosing the contestants for the show.

It will be interesting to see what comes out of it.

TWITTER – @jclark182

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About Jackson Clark

Born and bred in Darwin, Northern Territory, I am a young, aspiring football writer that lives and breathes the game of Australian Football. I'm also a keen player and coach.


  1. Sean Gorman says

    Nice one JC – you should have gone for the mandatory sleeve and instead of saying you were from Darwin you should have changed your name by deed poll to Rioli.

    They would not have been looking for the ‘best’ player but a player who gave maximum effort who could play. But the surname change would have helped.

  2. Good onya for having a go Jackson and sharing the experience with the Knackery.
    I often wonder with the reality tv shows whether the producers want the best footballer/cook/handyman or whether they psychologically profile for the best drama?
    Who will have the hissy fits, or take on the black hat role of undermining the competition? Who is the ‘golden boy’ everyone wants to take home. And who is the ‘bad boy’ that viewers secretly desire.
    Taking on Sean’s suggestion, next time change your name to Ridge Rioli and watch plenty of the Bold and the Beautiful beforehand, so you can adapt your persona to suit soap drama.

  3. Jackson

    Good insight and thanks for the behind-the-scenes stuff.

    I think for these reality shows, people need a hook to watch, hence the reliance on a ‘back-story’, being a villan or being on a journey.

    Did you consider crying in the interview? They love that

    Good luck


  4. Dennis Gedling says

    Sounds like when I tried out for the Bachelor. Great stuff Jackson.

  5. Whatever happens to you in footy, in life you are a natural story-teller. Thanks for this yarn.

  6. Paddy O'Peace says

    Congratulations on your success Jackson.
    Great footy competition in Darwin and excellent, natural footballers so thrilling to watch. Go Tahs!!!

  7. tony robb says

    On a brighter note Jackson you didn’t have to endure the banality of “Fitzy”. I couldn’t last past the first 10 minutes and wont be going back soon

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