When Jacob Allison sits down next Friday night to see if his dream of becoming an AFL footballer comes true, the people who have been there from day one, his family, will surround him.
They are the ones who come to mind when he thinks of his earliest footy memory, even if it is something his brother probably didn’t enjoy.
“I was in Geelong, playing at West Saints with my older brother and Dad at Auskick. I reckon I would have been about four. My brother was bigger and stronger than me, and the only way of stopping him was to put my arm out and clothesline him. That is definitely one of my fondest memories. That’s a story that always gets thrown around the family,” Allison said.
From Geelong, the Allison’s packed up their things and headed north. Even though Jacob was only six, it didn’t take him long to find a new clubhouse to call home.
“I came up pretty open minded, and we ended up going to school and St Joseph’s in Nundah. We had a couple of mates who said come down to Kedron Lions, which is where I started playing Under 8’s footy. I played with my brother, so played up two years until I was about 11, and then made the move to Aspley when I was 13,” he said.
Footy was always something he was good at (which wont surprise many, the natural athlete had the quickest 20m sprint time at this years combine) but it didn’t get serious until he was 15.
“Probably the Under 15 School Boys Nationals out at Darwin was when it changed. I didn’t even expect to get into the Queensland side, but I was open minded, and when I got named at All-Australian I remember looking up in the crowd and seeing mum’s big smile. Dad had already caught a plane home because he had to work,” Allison said.
“That was a pretty big moment, and the resulting trip to South Africa was when I sat down and thought this could be something we could take all the way.”
From there came the Queensland Talent program. A whirlwind year in the Under 16’s led to Allison being hand-picked for the NAB AFL Academy… a massive break in the overall scheme of things.
“That was always a goal to get into the Academy. I was lucky enough to be selected and it was incredible,” he said.
Now this, for most of you, is when Allison landed on the radar. As a bottom age player in the Under 18 system opportunities can be limited. He didn’t walk the beaten path though. He made that year his own, becoming a key pillar in the Championship winning Queensland team.
It wasn’t just inside the four walls Allison was rated. He was named in the All-Australian team after the National Championships.
“It was pretty unexpected to be honest, even to just be on the bench I was pretty happy. It was a good year and definitely something I will look back on and be proud of, and something I think helped me a lot,” he said.
Then came 2016… the biggest year of Allison’s life to date, and one that was going to be remarkably different.
This year, Allison has played for Queensland in the TAC Cup, was picked in the Allies team – which was made up of the best players from the Division 2 NAB AFL Under 18 Championships – and has played in the NEAFL for the Brisbane Lions… that’s a whirlwind year.
“It was pretty tough. Myself, I don’t think I had the greatest year and probably didn’t juggle it as well as I had hoped to. I was able to string a couple of good games together through the NEAFL, but it definitely wasn’t the easiest. It was still a good year of footy though,” he said.
If you’re looking for an example to see if Allison is ready to take the next step, just look at his NEAFL handiwork. Despite being one of the youngest on the field, the team walked taller when he was out there.
“Last year it was definitely a bit nerve racking. I had an underdeveloped body, and the hits took a while to get up from. This year I put a bit more weight on and you get a bit more used to senior bodies, so this year was a lot easier to adjust to, and it felt natural playing there,” he said.
“They Lions Academy has done a lot for my football. To have Luke Curran and guys like that around has really fast-tracked my footy and my development. I was probably a skinny kid with a lot of athletic attributes but probably didn’t have the football attributes. I have them to thank for a lot.
“Having Josh Hunt as the Academy coach, he has really helped us all. We have all taken big leaps in our development this year, in our body, in the mental stuff as well, so a big thanks has to go out to him. He has made us really confident in our own ability.”
That’s the Jacob Allison pre-draft. Come Friday night, he is hoping there is a complete new chapter about to start.
“It would be a dream come true. It’s been my dream ever since I was a little boy, and my family have been there for me right from the start, and they will be there if the moment is to happen. You wont be able to wipe the smile off my face,” he said.
The dream isn’t a picky one. While Brisbane will have the right to match any bid on him due to being in their Academy, he would be happy to land anywhere.
“Just to get on a list will be everything to me, so I’ll be happy if anyone calls out my name, Brisbane or not,” he said.
If that happens, the next question will be where to play him. He is quick, tall, has one of the biggest kicks in the country for someone his age, and is strong overhead.
Really, he is a recruiters dream.
But where does he see himself playing?
“Hopefully in the future off the half back line.”
One step at a time, but don’t be surprised if you hear “and here comes Allison bursting out of the backline, what a kick!” in the future.
The 2016 NAB AFL Draft will take place next Friday, November 25.
By Andrew Wiles