Former soccer player Draper joins Bombers in rookie draft – nine months after taking up footy
Matt Turner, Southern Times Messenger
HE spent part of his childhood in an English village and has only been playing football for nine months after switching from soccer.
Now South Adelaide ruckman Sam Draper’s rapid rise will continue in the AFL.
Essendon selected Draper, who started the season with Southern Football League club Reynella Wineflies, with the first pick of Monday’s rookie draft.
“I honestly cannot believe it – it does not seem real,” Draper, 18, says.
“Essendon rang me earlier today and told me they’d select me with pick one.
“Dad was overhearing the conversation and he just burst into tears, he was so happy for me.”
Draper was born in SA but lived in Brede – an East Sussex village of about 1700 people – for six years growing up.
The 203cm, 105kg big man started playing soccer there, originally as a goalkeeper.
Draper was a centre-back for South Adelaide’s soccer club until last year, featuring in four Premier League reserves and 23 under-18s matches.
But he switched codes over summer.
“It was a pretty big decision because I’d obviously played soccer my whole life,” he says.
“Every time I went out to watch my friends play footy, they’d always try to get me to come out and play.
“I just thought I’d give it a go and see where I could take myself with it.”
Draper started at Reynella before South Adelaide asked him to join its SANFL ranks two months later.
He lined up in 16 under-18 matches this season.
“The physicality was pretty different compared to soccer – I found myself a lot more sore after games because of the hard, body contact – and the positioning was heaps different.
“At first, I found it a bit hard but as the season went on I found myself more and more confident.
“I’ve worked pretty hard to achieve this goal and I’m really glad it’s paid off.”
Draper watched the rookie draft on a laptop with family and friends at home.
He will head to Melbourne tomorrow to meet his new Bombers teammates.
“No way could I have imagined anything like this happening in my first year.
“It’s just been so crazy.”
Draper was one of 10 SANFL players taken yesterday.
Originally published as From soccer to Essendon in 9 months