Former Adelaide cricketer turned Essendon rookie Luke Lavender. Picture: Supplied.
Former Adelaide pace bowler Luke Lavender joins Essendon as a category B rookie – a year after quitting Grade Cricket
Matt Turner, The Advertiser
October 16, 2017 6:26pm
LUKE Lavender has not played a football game since 2014 and was a lanky seam bowler for Adelaide Cricket Club until September last year.
But now the 21 year old is preparing for pre-season with the AFL club he has grown up supporting, after joining Essendon as a category B rookie last week.
The pathway is open to players from other sports who have not registered in an Aussie rules competition for at least three years.
Lavender was unaware of it until early 2016, when former cricket teammate Matthew Nobes told the 202cm opening bowler he had the physical attributes to make the code switch.
“I was a genuine number 11 so I was always running water to the batsmen,” Lavender, of Colonel Light Gardens, says.
“Nobesy was sitting on the sidelines watching me run water and said ‘you’re pretty quick, you’re tall – why aren’t you playing footy?’
“As a kid, I looked at footy players and never thought I was an athlete of that sort of standard.
“I’m a Bombers supporter and my family is all Bombers supporters. Walking around the house, it’s all covered in red and black merchandise.
“(Joining Essendon) hit me pretty hard and I was pretty stoked, but my family even more so.”
The transition to football gained steam when Nobes put Lavender in touch with player manager Nick Ramsey, who passed on his fitness testing results to several interested clubs.
Lavender stopped playing cricket 12 months ago to avoid an injury jeopardising his AFL prospects and instead undertook pre-season with Glenelg Football Club’s seniors.
Essendon indicated to Lavender earlier this year that it wanted him and the club made it official last week.
“I had to wait for the media release to come out then it hit home and became pretty real.
“I still can’t believe that this is happening.”
Lavender played his first A-grade game for Glandore-based Adelaide Cricket Club at 16.
His junior football stints were at Edwardstown, West Adelaide and Goodwood.
“I’ve always loved football and loved playing it but there was always more opportunity down the cricket way.
“I haven’t played in three years and I’m just chewing at the bit to get out on the footy field.”
Lavender knows he has a long way to go just to make the Bombers’ senior list, let alone play an AFL game.
But he takes comfort from Crows duo Hugh Greenwood and Alex Keath, and Geelong’s Mark Blicavs going from category B rookies to playing regularly at the elite level.
“Coming from where I am to playing an AFL game would be absolutely incredible and I’m looking forward to trying to do it.”