Future Roo sets high standards

Ready-made: Budding Kangaroo Luke McDonald has spent this year preparing for an AFL career. Photo: Sebastian CostanzoLuke McDonald didn’t want it to end. He was sore, he was tired and in his three months’ training with North Melbourne he had found out what he needed to get better at. But he had been living each day like a full-time footballer, what he had always wanted to be. He had spent his summer holidays running up mountains in Utah, making friends with the players and feeling like one of them.
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”I really, really wanted to keep going,” he said. ”It was hard to stop. It was hard to do that, then go back to being a normal person.”

McDonald will be back there, soon. Since finishing his first pre-season, he has been training with Werribee, playing there, starting the first year of an arts degree and spending one day a week at Arden Street. That’s all that is allowed until the club makes him an official father-son selection at the end of the season and McDonald is trying to take in as much as possible.

”It’s been a huge eye-opener, right from the start,” said the 18-year-old. ”It’s the length of the sessions that get me, they go for so long. I was used to training for an hour then doing 10 minutes of conditioning, so jumping from that into North’s pre-season was tough because all of a sudden we were training for three hours and doing 45 minutes of conditioning.

”They were long sessions, you had to be switched on all the time and it shows up all your deficiencies pretty quickly. But it’s good to find those things out now.

”If I had my way I’d be at North full time now, but that can’t happen so I want to use this year well, be organised, make sure I fit everything in and get all I can out of it.”

For now, though, McDonald is a kid again, captain of Vic Metro, which will play Western Australia, South Australia and Vic Country in the next month as part of this year’s under-18 championships. Having spent so much of this season around adults, he is enjoying the chance to play alongside his friends for the last time before they go their separate ways at the November national draft. Some of them, he has played with since the under-12s. But he has also tried to bring back a little of what he has learnt in his time at North Melbourne. It has been noticed.

”Luke’s a bubbly sort of kid. The others really like him, they’re really drawn to him, and he was an obvious choice for captain because he’s started to get a really good balance of when it’s time to muck around and time to be serious. And he takes the others with him,” said Metro coach Marty Allison.

”He’s become a bit more forthright in the way he talks, and he’s good with the other boys because he talks about what he’s seen at North Melbourne and the way they do things. He’s been really good at sharing his experiences.”

McDonald hopes he has become more aware of when to flick the switch from fun to serious, and that he is saying more helpful things on the field. Having played for Metro last year, when he was too young for the draft, McDonald hopes to spend the carnival playing on the ball and doing the sort of running he will need to be doing this time next year at North. .

He started barracking for the Roos nine years ago, when his father Donald had Glenn Archer turn up to his house one morning to take him out to breakfast. ”Until then, I was a Hawthorn fan,” he said. ”But Dad wanted me to switch over and when Glenn Archer asks you to do something, you do it. It was all blue and white after that day and that’s the weird thing now, to be training with guys who were my idols growing up and learning all that I can from them.

”When I was setting my goals this year I decided I wanted to be a bit more of a role model, especially to the younger boys, and wherever I was training I wanted to keep my intensity up as high as I could.

”When you come back from training at AFL level you have to make sure you keep your standards high, and I’ve tried to do that as well as open up a bit more and make sure I show a bit more leadership instead of just being quiet.

”I want to work on my bodywork and my running both ways, get that up as close to AFL standard as I can, even though it could take a while, and this is my last chance to play with all my good mates, as well. These are the last few games we’ll have together so I want to enjoy that. I know that from here, everything gets more serious.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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