Atley sets sights on his AFL debut
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.