As is the trend, it’s been a long and fluctuating season for this year’s group of draftees. Some players have shot up the rankings and others have dropped off the radar, but one constant has been Lachie Whitfield.
An “outside, hard-running midfielder,” he describes himself as, and he may just be one of the best to come through the under-18 system and, as a result, this year’s consensus as the number one draft pick for just about the entire length of the season.
He looks up to Shane Crawford and more recently Steele Sidebottom as the types of skilful midfielders that run all day – although, understandably, notes his father as the largest influence – and models his game style off them, which evidently comes across from watching him play.
His skill set covers all bases, with fantastic vision and clearance work, a very good goal sense and an intelligent kick, which he describes as one of his best features as a midfielder, but where he truly comes across as a complete player is through his running ability.
In fact, such is his will and capability to continue to run, the only thing that may stop him from breaking records at the AFL Draft Combine is sickness, which he has stated he is currently battling.
It’s one facet of so many that make up the player that’s likely to head north from Victoria to Greater Western Sydney to start his AFL career, a seemingly-inevitable move that he stated did not faze him.
With that will come the high-profile and pressurising tag of the number one draft pick that has seen stars such as Brendon Goddard, Nick Riewoldt, Brett Deledio, Luke Hodge – whom, as a Hawthorn supporter, he would undoubtedly admire – and many more forge such outstanding careers to date.
“There is definitely added pressure (about the possibility of becoming the number one pick), but I try to minimize it as much as I can,” he said.
It’s something that’s circled him for a while now, ever since winning the most valuable player award for Vic Country in the Under 18 National Championships as a bottom-age player, ahead of current Giants Matthew Buntine, Taylor Adams and Devon Smith, and other current players Sam Docherty, Clay Smith.
“I thought I didn’t really deserve it, but I was honoured,” he spoke of winning the award for his multiple eye-catching performances through the midfield in 2011, but he did note it as the year when he truly realised that he could one day play AFL football.
With Greater Western Sydney looming with the first pick in their hands, and the masses of talent and work ethic he possesses, playing AFL football seems like an inevitability.
There’s no doubt he’ll prove himself to become a great player for them, at the very least.