By Beth Newman
Later this week, hundreds of young footballers will wait to see if their AFL dreams will be realised at the National Draft.
One year ago, Lions youngster, Michael Close, was one of those whose name was called out, at #32.
Still finishing Year 12, Close’s family installed Foxtel so they could watch the draft and the teen simply focused on making it through his final exams.
After an injury-interrupted 2012, the Vic Country forward said all he could do was hope, heading into last year’s draft.
“I was still mainly focused on studies and I had injuries for club, so it was a very nervous time for me,” he said.
“I just had to wait and just hope that I eventually got the result.
“We got Foxtel about a month before just so I could watch the draft at home with my family and had a big BBQ the next day to celebrate.”
Twelve months on, Close has headed to Arizona on the Lions’ pre-season training camp, only his second overseas trip after an off-season holiday to Bali.
Close is yet to play a senior game, but all signs are pointing to a big 2014 for the youngster.
Coming from regional Victorian town, Harrow, Close said moving to Brisbane has been great, both for him and his family.
“They were stoked for me to move up here and they came up about four or five times this year, so it was good,” he said.
With plenty of Queenslanders going through the nervous wait over the next couple of weeks, with a high chance of moving interstate, Close is one of many who has had a seamless transition interstate.
Living with South Australians Nick Hayes and Sam Mayes and West Australian Marco Paparone has made it that little bit easier, Close said.
“It’s good fun – everyone’s good company, we share the roles and have good relationships.
“We all know what each other are going through, and it’s pretty easy to relate.”
Close, who played a key role in the Lions reserves’ NEAFL premiership this season, was a standout performer in the club’s 2km time trial last week, and said he was pleased to kick off pre-season on a good note.
“I didn’t know how I was going to go, because at home I’ve been training by myself so I didn’t know how fit I was, so it was good to come in and get a good result,” he said.
“Last year, we only did about 70% of training and this time last year, I wasn’t even drafted to the Lions but this year, we’ll be in full training and it’ll be a lot tougher.
“It’ll be good to get back in there, doing it all with the boys.”
The 19 year-old, earmarked as a potential key forward successor to captain, Jonathan Brown, is still concentrating on adding muscle to his naturally lean frame.
“I’ve put on a fair bit of muscle (since) last year, because I was still a bit skinny, but I need to put on a lot more,” he said.
This year’s NAB AFL National Draft will be held at The Gold Coast Exhibition and Convention Centre on Thursday.