OPINION: Bravo Brandon... now the hard work begins

Draftee: Brandon Zerk-Thatcher poses with his now-teammates at Essendon. Photo: Essendon Football Club/Twitter.
Draftee: Brandon Zerk-Thatcher poses with his now-teammates at Essendon. Photo: Essendon Football Club/Twitter.

Chad Wingard to Port Adelaide in 2011, Brad Hartman to Geelong in 2012 and now Brandon Zerk-Thatcher in 2017.

It had been five years since the Murraylands had a player drafted onto an AFL list before it was announced that the Essendon Football Club was taking a chance on Rambler and Imperial Football Club junior Brandon Zerk-Thatcher. 

That, of course, was if you didn’t include Jarrod Lienert’s rookie listing with Port Adelaide after a stellar 2016 for Sturt, following Brodie Martin’s listing with Adelaide in 2007.

Brandon joins a pretty talented handful of players to have been picked up in the past decade.

Wingard is a dual All-Australian with 126 games under his belt, Martin spent eight years at the Crows and Hartman played five games for the Cats. 

I have no doubt that all of these boys felt the pressures of professional sport.

Martin ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in a 2009 Showdown and Hartman left the Cats for personal reasons.

Several other players had recently taken leave from their clubs battling mental illness. 

Speaking to Brandon before he jetted to Melbourne, he told me he was nervous.  

He was right to be nervous. Football is demanding. Sport is demanding. It takes its toll on you. 

I have personally experienced the physical and emotional impacts of the game and the expectations of it while playing for the Woodville-West Torrens Football Club.

During a training drill, only days out from the club’s first trial match of 2013, I was tackled by a teammate and came down on my right ankle.

I heard and felt a pop, and then my entire foot went numb.

I had torn just about every ligament there was to tear and, as a result, spent over 12 weeks in a moon boot and hobbling around on crutches.

Through over four months of rehabilitation and work to get it up to a playing standard again, I injured it in my return game over halfway through the season and haven’t played a game since.

It was physically and emotionally taxing, and I never played at a full-time, professional level.

I can’t imagine some of the pressures on these guys to be at their absolute best week-in, week-out.

I sincerely wish Brandon all the best in his journey.

It certainly will be a battle, but I have a feeling he’ll be alright.

Nick Grimm