The 22-year-old represented the Peter Jackson VFL in the State Game against Western Australia in May and has played eight games for the Bombers in 2017 – a far cry from previous years, when he’s struggled for consistency after requiring two knee reconstructions while at the Calder Cannons in the TAC Cup.
Ferry said the injuries – suffered when he was 16 years of age in 2011 and then when he was 18 in 2013 – had proved “character-building” and had created a personal trait he hoped would attract AFL clubs looking for a 191cm backman capable of playing on tall and small opposition forwards.
“The second injury was hard to swallow at 18 years of age,” Ferry said. “The 2013 season was going really well – I was selected in the Vic Metro squad but unfortunately I did my knee the week before (the NAB AFL U18 Championships started). You start to talk about getting drafted and you think you can make a career out of football, so it was pretty heartbreaking to know you’re going to miss 12 months.
“I had a bit of time off and that’s when Essendon contacted me to say they’d like to bring me down to the club’s new facilities, help me with my rehab and try to get me on an AFL list.
“I think one thing that would probably appeal to AFL clubs is my resilience. It’s pretty hard at a young age to take those big blows, but being resilient is something I pride myself on.”
Ferry has taken heart from seeing former VFL Bombers Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Ben McNiece given chances on Essendon’s AFL rookie list over the last two years and breaking through for games at the elite level.
He said their consistency of performance as VFL-listers – “being able to back it up week in and week out” – was one thing he’d taken from his time playing alongside them.
After appearing in 13 games and two finals in each of the last two VFL seasons and a 2017 pre-season focused on building strength in his legs, Ferry said his body is now in “the best condition it’s ever been in”.
Finding some consistency of his own has seen him average 16 disposals, five marks and four rebound-50s per game for the Bombers this year while also being named in the VFL’s best players in the State Game loss.
Now a leadership group member at Essendon under skipper Nick O’Brien and vice-captain Aaron Heppell, Ferry is passing on lessons learnt during his times on the sidelines to some of the club’s unlucky VFL-listers.
“Unfortunately we’ve got Sam Hooper, Bruno Laguda and Ben Fennell who have done their ACLs now,” Ferry said. “Sam and Bruno are just starting their careers off, so having a chat to tell them there’s a bigger picture and it’s not the end of the world is something I’ve been trying to do.
“I do feel there’s a few life lessons I can bring for the younger boys.
“With these serious injuries and being out of the game for as long as I’ve spent out, you start to look at the little things, and just being able to run out on the field week in and week out is actually a great achievement in itself.”
- THE FAST FIVE with James Ferry
What food could you not live without?
If you could do anything, what would be your dream job?
Apart from playing AFL football, I’d love to be a dog-walker. It’s something myself and Aaron Heppell are going to look into.
What karaoke song would you sing to save your life?
‘Hollaback Girl’ by Gwen Stefani.
Which teammate would you want to be stranded on a desert island with and why?
Aaron Heppell, just because he’d be my business partner with the dog-walking.
Which teammate would you not want to be stranded on a desert island with and why?
Nash Holmes, because of his potty mouth.