INTEREST from AFL clubs provided Charlie Sprague with the motivation to recover from a serious finger injury and have an opportunity to showcase his talents to recruiters ahead of the upcoming Draft Combine.
Sprague is one of seven Falcons attending Draft Combines in Melbourne. He’ll be joined by likely No.1 draft pick Sam Walsh, potential father-son selection Oscar Brownless along with Ned McHenry and Connor Idun at the three-day National Combine between October 2-5.
Brayden Ham, the Falcons leading goal kicker in 2018, is attending the State Combine, with ruckman Sam Conway testing at ‘Rookie Me’.
Rated a late chance of being selected in November’s draft, Sprague hurt his finger during a Vic Country trial match in May and was told by his surgeon he was unlikely to play again in 2018.
But the 18-year-old returned to the Falcons line-up late in the season; his recovery spurred on by the knowledge that AFL clubs were beginning to contemplate drafting the talented 187cm forward.
He’s already met with six AFL clubs and is excited by the prospect of speaking to many more over the three days at Etihad Stadium.
“When I first did my finger, I sat down with ‘DOK’ (Falcons coach Daniel O’Keefe) and, even though the surgeon had said it looks like I’d miss the rest of the season, he said to me “let’s train super hard as if you’re going to get back”,” Sprague told krockfootball.com.au
“I worked really hard with (Falcons High-Performance Manager) Matt Critchley on my endurance and was lucky enough to get back for a few games at the end of the year and knowing that there were a few clubs interested certainly did inspire me to come back and hopefully play some good footy.”
Sprague, who was part of the Falcons 2017 Premiership side as a 17-year-old, is a player who doesn’t need to have a lot of the ball to impact matches.
He averaged just under 13 possessions, four marks and two tackles a game in 2018 and kicked nine goals.
O’Keefe describes Sprague as a natural footballer, and it’s those attributes that have brought him to the attention of AFL scouts.
Similar to former teammate and now Geelong Cat Gryan Miers last year, Sprague knows he needs to work on building up his endurance levels while recruiters will also be keeping a close eye on his athleticism as he only registered 62cm in the standing vertical leap in pre-season testing.
“I’ll be looking to improve on what I’ve been doing in the 2km time trial and the yo-yo because they are two tests recruiters will be looking at for me to make sure there is an improvement,” Sprague said.
“Playing forward, I’ve been able to hit the scoreboard fairly often throughout the year.
“I’m not a big possession winner, but when I do get the ball, I make good decisions and use the ball well and have the ability to impact the game.”