THE AFL Draft is a massive night for the nation’s junior footballers, as they attempt to make the leap to the pinnacle of the sport.
It’s billed as the night where dreams are realised, and the emotion on show through Friday’s event was a clear indication of what it means to the players involved: everything.
It can be life-changing, as shown through the Brayshaw parents’ emotion at their son Hamish realising his dream of making an AFL list, and joining his brother Andrew in Western Australia, with the pair to turn out for West Coast and Fremantle respectively.
Echuca-Moama has seen its footballing stars follow this same path.
Reading through the Riv archives about Ollie Wines’ journey was a treat. With his name called at pick seven, the Echuca junior’s life was turned upside down.
Drafted on a Thursday, he was on a plane to Adelaide on Sunday afternoon, and training on Monday.
Like that, he was a professional footballer.
But while the draft can be the making of these young men, it doesn’t have to be the breaking of them. Many of the area’s best young talents were overlooked in this year’s draft, with Cohuna’s Flynn Appleby the notable exception heading to Collingwood’s rookie list.
Speaking with some of the prospects, they all seemed realistic about their chances and wouldn’t set expectations too high about reaching an AFL list.
But it’s only natural to hope for the best. And to feel flat when the best doesn’t happen.
Being passed over isn’t the end of all chance to be in the AFL, and nor is it the end of the chance to make an impact when there.
Sam Mitchell wasn’t taken in the 2000 draft — four premierships and a Brownlow Medal later he seems to have done all right for himself.
But look no further than Greater Western Sydney’s Sam Reid, who was drafted to an AFL club on Monday night for a staggering fourth time.
Reid was drafted to the Western Bulldogs in 2007 then signed by the Giants in 2011 before injury forced him to retire at the end of 2013.
But after two seasons away from the big league he was back on the club’s rookie list as a 27-year-old, and taken again by the Giants heading into the 2018 season. He won’t ever win a Brownlow, but he’s worked hard to play 43 games.
Next season will be his ninth, far exceeding the average six years players spend on an AFL list.
So while guys like Marty Hore, Darby Henderson and Lachie Smith wonder what is next after (as they all predicted) they were overlooked in this year’s draft, know this isn’t the end of their careers. With all three likely VFL candidates for next season, perhaps it is just the start.