Despite North Melbourne’s 2014 draft class failing to make an AFL appearance between them over the past two seasons, the young trio are ready to burst onto the scene after injuries have soured their short AFL careers to date.
North drafted Sam Durdin (pick 16), Daniel Nielson (25) and Ed Vickers-Willis (36) with its selections in the 2014 NAB AFL Draft, and after biding their time on the sidelines, all three are preparing to make their long-awaited debuts in 2017.
Durdin and Vickers-Willis have both pulled on the blue and white in the JLT Community Series so far, as the pair looked lively in defence during North’s clashes with Sydney and Hawthorn over the past fortnight.
Nielson’s pre-season hasn’t started as strongly as his fellow draftees, with quad troubles hampering his 2017 preparations.
The key defender only managed eight VFL matches in 2016 after returning for a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament he suffered during his first pre-season with the Roos the year prior.
It could be forgiven if the trio were lacking self belief after struggling to get on the park during their first two seasons, but Vickers-Willis says he and his teammates are just looking forward to giving it another shot this season.
“This season just presents us with an opportunity, there’s no lack of self belief amongst us,” Vickers-Willis told AFL.com.au.
“It’s been a bit unfortunate that we’ve had injuries, but that’s all really in the past. Now we’re just excited for the season ahead.
“In the next couple of weeks when Dan’s back out there, we’ll all have an opportunity to show what we can do.
“We’ve got bright futures ahead of us and we’re looking forward to seeing what we can do this year and beyond.”
Vickers-Willis lined up against Swans Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker before facing Hawthorn’s Jarryd Roughead and Cyril Rioli in the JLT Community Series in recent weeks, who are players the young Roo has looked up to for years.
“Growing up they were guys I’ve watched play a lot and it’s pretty humbling to stand next to them and play against them, but I really enjoyed the one-on-one contests with them and take great confidence from that,” he said.
“I guess going forward they’re the guys I’m going to have to match up on, so I’m really enjoying those challenges and am looking forward to seeing who else I’ll play on this year.
“As soon as the ball bounces you forget who you’re standing next to and just back your ability, and I’ve known for a long time that I can play good footy at AFL level.
“But after two solid practice matches I’ve got a good foundation to build on for the rest of the year.”