At­ley sets sights on his AFL de­but

Campaspe News - - SPORT - By JESS GLEDHILL

IT HAS been a whirl-wind ride for Joseph At­ley who has gone from high school grad­u­ate to AFL foot­baller in a mat­ter of weeks.

The Rochester mid­fielder made the leap from coun­try foot­ball into the AFL when he was drafted to the Port Ade­laide Foot­ball Club in Novem­ber.

At­ley has since been in South Aus­tralia train­ing with the squad ahead of the 2017 sea­son, but it had taken a lot of per­se­ver­ance to get there.

Prior to his se­lec­tion At­ley, 18, cap­tained the Bendigo Pioneers in the 2016 TAC Cup sea­son and made his Vic­to­rian Foot­ball League de­but with Gee­long the same year.

He at­tended the 2016 AFL draft camp and although he wasn’t a stand out per­former dur­ing the fit­ness tests, he was named in the top 10 in the clean hands and goal kick­ing tests.

‘‘It’s mostly been about im­prov­ing day-to-day so far and learn­ing off all the older, ex­pe­ri­enced guys,’’ At­ley said. ‘‘I’m just tak­ing it all in re­ally. ‘‘The first week was pretty ex­cit­ing, meet­ing all the play­ers and coaches who you’re used to see­ing on the tele­vi­sion.

‘‘Ac­tu­ally be­ing here has been un­real, but I’m three weeks in now and am a lit­tle more com­fort­able.’’

At­ley said the daily rou­tine of train­ing from 8am-5pm has be­gun to feel more real — not a bad job straight out of high school.

‘‘It’s def­i­nitely a change from train­ing two nights a week for an hour and a half,’’ he said.

He headed back to Vic­to­ria dur­ing the Christ­mas break, be­fore head­ing back to Ade­laide af­ter an in­duc­tion camp in Mel­bourne from Jan­uary 8-10.

‘‘It’s nice to get back home for our fam­ily Christ­mas and chill out for a bit and let the body rest,’’ he said.

‘‘My brother (Shaun) hasn’t given me a whole lot of ad­vice, just to stay out of the way and ask ques­tions if needed.’’

Shaun cur­rently plays for North Mel­bourne in the AFL and although didn’t have to move in­ter­state for his ca­reer, he un­der­stood how dif­fi­cult the tran­si­tion into the next level could be.

Play­ing AFL had al­ways been a dream for At­ley and he was pre­pared to go any­where to achieve it.

‘‘It didn’t bother me whether it was West Coast or Gold Coast,’’ he said.

‘‘As soon as my name got read out I was happy; it was pretty ex­cit­ing.

‘‘It’s hard to give other guys ad­vice when I’m so young my­self, but if I could pass on any­thing it would be to con­tinue to work hard and ev­ery­thing will even­tu­ally work it­self out.’’

The move to South Aus­tralia has been rel­a­tively smooth for At­ley who spent the first week of train­ing board­ing with the other draft picks at a house on the beach.

He was liv­ing with Tom Jonas be­fore the break and when he re­turns will live with a host fam­ily pro­vided by the club.

Port Ade­laide coach Ken Hink­ley has a his­tory of giv­ing first-year play­ers a go at the top level, which means we could see our guy on the field as early as round one next sea­son.

‘‘I’ll def­i­nitely aim for a round one start, but there’s a lot of guys putting their hand up so I’ll just play it weekby-week and see what comes,’’ he said.

‘‘I’ll just con­tinue to learn what I can off the older blokes and put my hand up for a game, but that’s all I can do.’’

The Power’s first round AFL clash will be an away game to Syd­ney Swans at the SCG on Satur­day, March 25.

Af­ter a whirl­wind tran­si­tion from stu­dent to AFL foot­baller, Joe At­ley is now set­ting his sights on break­ing into Port Ade­laide’s se­nior line-up this sea­son.

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