Meet Jake Lever, Peter Wright, Isaac Heeney, Tom Lamb and Clem Smith. In 2015, they played their first game. In years to come, they could become stars. But first they had to be drafted to a club.
Every year, hundreds of boys are put through their paces at AFL draft camps, training sessions, under-18 competitions and school footy matches. They all hope they will end the year signed to an AFL team. Meanwhile, clubs are making brutal calls on which young players will take them up the ladder. Too many bad recruiting decisions could set them back years.
Emma Quayle, senior football writer for The Age and an expert on talent identification, tracks these five boys through 2014 – the year they nominate for the AFL's national draft. We meet their coaches and families. We ride the bumps and share the triumphs. With exclusive behind-the-scenes access to recruiters at St Kilda Football Club as they decide on their 2014 draft picks, Emma sheds light on what it takes to become an AFL footballer.
For Jake, Pete, Isaac, Tom and Clem, hearing their name called out on draft day is just the beginning of their football story. But it takes a lot to get to that start line.