Redland big man Sam Michael is the Round 19 nomination for the NAB NEAFL Rising Star Award (Northern Conference).


It’s an undeniable fact in football these days that expectation can weigh very heavily on young shoulders in any and every facet of life. Just ask Redland’s Sam Michael.

The 19-year-old AIS/AFL Academy squad member has carried a monstrous load through a year he hopes will get him into the AFL at the end of the season.

And he readily admits “it’s been killing me”.

“Yes, I have felt the pressure,” he said, admitting he hasn’t played as consistently well as he would have liked.

“I want to play in the AFL so badly that it’s hard not to think about it.

“I set myself really high expectations and I haven’t really achieved them … then I get down on myself and worry even more.”

Michael, who missed selection in the Australia Post Queensland U16 side in 2009, has come a long way in a short space of time.

After moving to Brisbane last year and enjoying a stellar first season with Redland that included a standout role with the Australia Post Queensland U18 side and selection into the 2010 AIS/AFL Academy he went into 2011 as one of the State’s brightest prospects.

He did pre-season training with the Gold Coast Suns where he relished the chance to work alongside full-time professionals.

“It was sensational – I loved being able to go over to a Nathan Bock and do some work with him, or whoever. It was great to be in such an organized program and I felt I really improved a lot in that short time,” he said.

Later, he toured Europe with the Academy squad alongside Bombers clubmate Alex Sexton and Morningside’s Brian Coleman-Broome before a mixed campaign with the Scorpions in the NAB Australian U18 Championships.

He’s seen little club football in such a busy year, and has played just three NEAFL games – for the Suns Reserves against NT Thunder in Cairns in Round 16, and for Redland against Tuggeranong in Canberra in Round 17 and Mt.Gravatt at Victoria Point in Round 19.

His effort against Mt.Gravatt last Saturday was outstanding and was rewarded with a nomination for the NAB NEAFL Rising Star Award (Northern Conference).

Even opposition coach David Lake was impressed with the Bombers’ No.1 ruckman.

“He was absolutely exceptional,” said Lake. “Ryan Head is no slouch and Matty Skubis has a real crack but he (Michael) was getting around the ground and giving us some real trouble.

“He was mobile, he was willing and he was clean, and he must have taken at least a dozen contested marks.

“I thought he was their best player and if you were an AFL recruiter the tape of his game would be an absolute must see.”

Michael’s game against the Vultures replicated his best afield effort for the Scorpions in their breakthrough win over the NT Thunder in the U18 championships. He played in the ruck that day, too, after spending time in key defense and key forward roles earlier in the U18 campaign.

“I think for now ruck is my best spot because it frees me up more and allows me to play more to my strengths,” said the ever-personable Michael, who was also a standout in cricket, basketball and cross country as a junior.

Down the track, though, he insists at 196cm he’s not going to be big enough to be a No.1 ruckman in the AFL. He’s more like Collingwood’s Leigh Brown, who is filling a key role with the premiership favorites as a mobile marking forward and back-up ruckman.

“But right now I’m not even thinking about that. I know I’ve still got a lot of work to do and I’m just trying to play well every chance I get for the rest of the season,” he said.

“Last Saturday I didn’t worry too much about things – I just went out and played and it worked out OK. The ball just seems to find me,” he said.

“And I ate baked beans before the game – just as I did before the U18 game against the NT. That might be the secret,” he added with a grin.

Regardless of what is the secret, Michael will find it, according to Redland club development manager Craig Millar, because he’s just so thorough.

“Honestly, his preparation is more professional than any other kid I’ve ever seen,” said the highly-respected Millar.

“He is just so meticulous and is always looking for ways to get better. You’d think he’d already had five years in the AFL.”

Examples? Millar didn’t hesitate, pointing to Michael’s post-game ritual of immediately pulling out a couple of small tins of tuna to restock his protein levels and aid his recovery. Or doing as many as five ice bath plunges when he’s only told to do one or two.

“Last week I had to say to him “look, here are the keys, will you make sure you lock up – I’ve got to get over to the after-match,” Millar said.

“A lot of kids will always look for a short-cut but he leaves absolutely nothing to chance. Sometimes you’ve got to pull him up because he’ll want to do too much.”

Millar says Michael’s weekly training routine is “exceptional” and was delighted to see his preparation finally rewarded with a powerhouse on-field performance.

“He was right back to the form he showed 12 months ago. He was strong and aggressive, his ruck work was superb, he used the ball well, and he took a couple of clunking marks. Two marks he took in front of Gavin Grose I just went ‘wow’. It was really outstanding.”

Michael, already invited to the AFL’s State Screening day in Melbourne ahead of the NAB AFL National Draft in November, is the third Redland player nomination for the Rising Star Award behind Sexton, who was chosen when playing for the Suns Reserves, and Trent Manzone.

Others in contention for this prestigious award are Mt.Gravatt’s Daniel Mowat and Nathan Reid, Morningside’s Peter Mollison, Tom Bell and Peter Yagmoor, Aspley’s Michael Hutchinson, Brendan Colch and Adam Hughes, NT Thunder’s Jed Anderson and Ross Tangatalum, the Brisbane Lions’ Richard Newell, Broadbeach’s Kallen Geary and Luke Shreeve and Labrador’s Jake Goldsmith.

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