What sort of player will he be compared to? Scotty West comes to mind.
Ottomh,… Paul Kelly, … Greg Williams spring to mind.
Ooh, I like the Paul Kelly comparison.
What a gun that guy was.
Kelly is one of the most loved player, never heard a bad word about him.
McGrath, Smith, Stringer. Handy additions to the midfield.
Essendon’s Andrew McGrath ready for full year in midfield after being rested in Rising Star debut season
LAUREN WOOD, Herald Sun, 17 Feb 2018
BEING sidelined did not sit well with Andrew McGrath.
As a first-year player at Essendon, the No.1 pick was kept in check — for good reason, as his body adapted to the rigours of the game at the highest level.
Training sessions were cut shorter than those of senior players, with a few forced rests thrown in on occasion, both from work on the track and games.
It was what he needed, he knows that, but that did not make it any easier.
Now unbridled, the 19-year-old wants to show what he is really made of.
“They do hold you back a little bit in your first year, which is pretty responsible,” McGrath said.
“I was a bit frustrated early on when you get pulled out of training sessions halfway through, and miss bits here and there.
“But it’s all worth it — at the end of the year, you realise how much of a toll the season does take on your body.
“To have the pre-season I’ve had now, compared to last year, I’ll be a lot stronger and a lot fitter come the back-end of the year.”
When it came to being rested in Round 7, McGrath wasn’t all that pleased.
“I’d had my first few games and strung a few good games together and thought I could keep going, but they wanted to pull me back a bit and it didn’t sit with me very well at the start,” he said.
“I wanted to keep playing, and keep my flow going.
“It’s a funny way to put it, but you get in a bit of a rhythm when you are playing, and to lose that a little bit, annoyed me.
“But the second time (in Round 20), I really needed it. I had a couple of poor games in a row and wasn’t getting through the games as I well as I knew I could. That one came at a good time.
“But as a first year, you do need a bit of a spell. It’s a long year and you’re really not used to it.”
He’s completed almost 100 per cent of this preseason after “less than 50” this time last year.
The Canadian-born teenager — who didn’t even have an Australian passport when he was drafted — knew there would be pressure leading into his first season.
There had to be — that’s natural when you’re the No. 1 pick.
He did his bit, winning the Rising Star award after 21 games with an average of almost 20 disposals per game.
But just doing his bit isn’t enough for the high achiever.
“You always know there’s pressure around … being a high pick, I was exposed to that pretty early in my Year 12 year,” he said.
“This year, I’m approaching it in a way to really impact games a lot more.
“Last year, I was sort of content to play my role, mitigate my opponent and hope we’d win. This year, I’m really taking it into my own hands to really take the team forward and improve on my game and impact on games a lot more.
“I feel like I can now as a second-year player and as a first-year player there’s a lot of ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that’. I’m just one of the players now.”
He knows his body better now, and unlike last year is not afraid to admit he needs a break.
McGrath was school captain at Brighton Grammar in his draft year. Vice-captain of the footy team, and led the athletics squad.
You know those guys.
He shared the captaincy at Vic Metro that year, too, was part of the leadership group at the Sandringham Dragons and was a member of his school choir.
Yes, the choir.
Essendon assistant coach James Kelly — who may or may not have been part of a prank to catch a bird and leave it inside McGrath’s locker before Round 1 last season — describes the kid they call “Pigeon” as, pardon the pun, “unflappable”.
“The thing about Andy is, and I think why everyone loves him, is he’s authentic,” Kelly said.
“He is who he is and I think that’s why really quickly people took a shine to him when he got to the footy club. He was just like that all the time.
“It’s not like he was one of those people who would throw out a persona when he needed to. He’s a down to earth, intelligent and genuine person.”
Not much rattles him, and Kelly knows the Bombers are lucky to have him in their ranks.
“He’s pretty much unflappable to this point in his career,” he said.
“Quite often, people’s football persona doesn’t match their personality, but with him and the way he plays footy is the way he is in life. He’s smart, composed and is a team player and does all the right things.
“He’s just a really good person and a really great player.”
There’s been talk of a move to the midfield this season, and it’s one that McGrath has welcomed with open arms.
It’s a natural fit for him, he says, and one that he hopes will help him wind back the clock to the form that saw him dominate in the TAC Cup two years ago.
“I got drafted as a midfielder and played all my junior footy as a midfielder, so I’m really looking forward to the opportunity,” the 19-year-old said.
“Your first year is a bit about learning to know the ropes a bit more and see how you find it. You can rely on other people to help you through in the backline a little bit more — the midfield’s very … the structures are a little bit harder.
“But now having played one year and knowing what it takes, I’m ready for that step up.
“I feel like this year I can do a lot more and play a lot more like I did in juniors compared to last year. I’ll have a little bit more freedom in the way I play and I think that will bring out my natural game a bit more and hopefully add to the value.”
Zach Merrett has been an invaluable source, as has David Zaharakis, with McGrath picking their brains and shadowing them at training.
After the drugs saga that engulfed the club in recent years, Merrett has been open in his desire to be part of a band of young Bombers that will lead the club into the next decade.
It’s something McGrath is a pivotal part of, and he’s found his voice.
“We’ve got a great young group of talent that came in just as that was happening, and just after,” McGrath said.
“I was lucky enough to come in the year after those events, so I wasn’t really involved or didn’t really get affected by it. But just the vibe around the whole club and the mental shift that everyone involved in that took once 2016 started was just massive.
“Everyone left the events behind, learned from it definitely, but it pushed everyone forward because of what happened and the young leaders like Joe (Daniher) and Zach … they are driving that standard and really leading from the younger boys’ perspective and keeping the older guys accountable and working hard still.
“I enjoy communicating with people and sharing my opinion. I’m not afraid to do that now that I’m a second-year player.
“(Leadership) is something that sits pretty comfortably with me. It’s a really good problem to have, to have too many young guys pushing for leadership positions.”
McGrath is learning every day at Tullamarine, and the Bombers were dealt a harsh lesson in last year’s elimination final loss to Sydney.
It still burns.
“The fact that we got there showed big improvement and we played inconsistent footy at times last year,” he said.
“I think we’re going to come to Round 1 really ready to go and to play a finals brand style of football.
“Obviously our goal is to make finals again … we are using our loss from last year to really drive us forward.
“That really taught us a lot about finals footy, so we take that forward and hopefully go deeper into the finals this year.”
JAKE Stringer will play a vital role in Essendon’s midfield and has already proven himself as a leader at his new club, according to Bombers young gun Andrew McGrath.
McGrath, 19, has joined Stringer in training as midfielders over the pre-season, and the Rising Star winner said he had been impressed by his new teammate’s willingness to bring all of his knowledge and energy to the table.
“I get along with him really well, actually,” McGrath said.
“He’s had a rough run over the last couple of years and we just took him on face value and that’s been great so far.
“He’s been a leader among the group and brought everything he has to the table and has really shown why he’s a star of the competition.
“I can’t wait to see what he can produce in Essendon colours.”
Stringer, 23, was traded to Tullamarine at the end of last season after 89 games and the 2016 premiership with the Western Bulldogs.
He arrived at the club amid a storm surrounding his private life, including explosive allegations of cheating and gambling by his former partner.
But McGrath said his new teammates ensured that was left at the door.
“We all put that behind him, and really just took him for what he brought day one.
“He’s just brought a positive attitude and a willingness to work hard. He’s spent a lot of time with the midfield (group) and I think he can add another string to our bow and really help us out.”
The teenage star, who is embarking on his second AFL season, said the preseason had flown.
And it’s been a lot tougher as he ramped up his preparations to a new level compared to last season.
“This is my first real preseason in the AFL, so it feels a little bit longer for me, I guess,” he said
“It was probably harder (than last year), in a lot of ways.
“I haven’t really missed a beat since we started in early November. I’ve done about 100 per cent of the workload of the other boys, which is promising when compared with my less than 50 of last year.
“I hope that holds me in good stead come the start of the season, but it has been a lot harder.”
If he improves form last year will be invaluable!
Such an impressive young man.
Also sneaky pump up of stringer at the end.
pssst. SMJ. You may want to cover up your webcam.
For once a decent article in a sensationalist paper. However its the same paper that printed a picture of Justin " blowtorch" Murphy in an Essendon jumper on the front page.
Did Andy fall to earth in a spaceship from Krypton?
Kelly would have to be one of the most underrated players if not the most underrated player I have ever seen play the game.
Had everything you want in a midfielder.
Can’t wait to see what Andy can do as a full time mid. Though I reckon our backline will feel the loss ( which is amazing considering his was a first year player)
and he won the rising star award playing in the backline. Someone who knows can tell us how many other rising stars have won playing out of their junior position. Regardless, I think that says a lot about what McGrath can achieve. And how exciting it is to have him back playing in his “natural” position.
This kid is still a kid, but he has a head on his shoulders that says he is anything but a kid. The saga gave us an enormous amount of hurt, but at the end of it it also gave us McGrath. Not a bad way to move on.
Clayton Oliver did extraordinarily well in his second year from being a #5 draft pick. Its not impossible for McGrath to show similar improvement. Both players gained around 19 disposals in their first year. However, probably McGrath will play more on the outside, while our older, bigger blokes try to get it done on the inside.
Its unlikely that McGrath is going to average 15 contested possessions and 6.5 clearances. However, he might end up being a more damaging player than Oliver for us in his second year.
Heppell won playing half back when he played a lot of football as a mid.
Pretty sure Callum Mills was a midfielder in juniors also and won the RS off HBF
From little things big things grow.
For me I’m going to be interested to see how his kicking holds up as a full time midfielder.
He seems like he will be a player who will always have a high proportion of handballs and he is extremely good at using his quick hands to dish off to a teammate who has some more room to operate in.
It’s his kicking though that I hope to see become a damaging skill as well. I do at present feel that it’s not super damaging but of course he is very young and has heaps of time to hone that area. He won’t quite get the same time as he did as a defender when kicking the footy.
At least with McGrath you just know that he is a perfectionist and a hard worker so he will become the absolute best he can be.