By Nick Creely
Dandenong Stingray midfielder Hunter Clark is as tough as nails, wins the football relentlessly and leaps for the ball like a key position player.
That’s why the Peninsula product is one of the most enticing prospects in this year’s draft pool.
After a stunning purple patch in the second half of the year, Clark was the runaway winner in the Stingrays’ Best and Fairest award, averaging almost 27 disposals, half a dozen tackles and almost a goal a game.
Life is hectic at the moment for the Stingray who will be juggling his VCE exams over the next month while awaiting draft day on 24 November where he will learn which of the 18 AFL clubs he will begin his journey with in 2018.
“Yeah, it’s all pretty busy at the moment but there is still a little while to go (before the draft), so I’m just trying to keep it simple and pretty normal.
“Not much has changed with what I’m doing and how I’m acting, but it’s definitely a different feeling getting close to the draft,” he said.
“I’ve been fine now that the season is done, it’s definitely become more of a focus (the draft) – whatever happens, happens, and if I’m lucky enough to be picked up, it’s what I’ve wanted to do forever so I’d be stoked.
“There’s still a long way to go, I’ve put in a lot of hard work to get here.”
After the initial nervousness that accompanies being interviewed by a range of different clubs from all parts of the country, Clark said he now enjoys the process, despite a few differences between Victorian and interstate clubs.
“Speaking to the clubs the first few times was nerve-racking, I wasn’t sure what to expect, to be honest, but once you do a couple you start to get used to them, as most of them are pretty similar with the types of things they ask you. Once you get comfortable, you even start to enjoy them,” he said.
“They (interstate clubs) have similar basis questions, but they’d ask you how you’d settle in having to move, or your thoughts on it, so I suppose they want to know what you’re like as a person and whether you’re willing to take on the challenge.”
Clark was hampered early in the season by a niggling injury, but bounced back to end the TAC Cup season as one of its most dominant midfielders, while also earning the prestigious honour of playing for Team Enright in the Under 18’s All Stars match on AFL Grand Final day on 30 September.
“In the first part of the year I was just trying to get my body right, I missed the most of pre-season with a groin injury and that hung around for most of the year, and in the first half I wasn’t playing full game time,” he said.
“In the last couple of months, I’ve played my best footy, but that’s when my body had overcome that, and was able to play full games.
“It was just awesome (playing on the ‘G) – I’m a Richmond man also, so to play on that day was special – running on the ‘G was surreal, and when I was running out there I was just imagining running out there for an AFL Grand Final, and you just take in the little things.”
He also believes the club out of Shepley Oval could be in for a decent draft haul, with up to half a dozen names likely to be taken.
“I think we have a pretty strong chance of quite a few drafted – potentially there could be five or six, and maybe a couple of 19-year-olds, we’ve got quite a bit of talent,” he said.
Position: Inside Midfielder/Defender
Draft Range: 8-20
Potential suitors: St Kilda (picks 7 and 8), West Coast (13), Brisbane (15), Western Bulldogs (16), Richmond (17) and Gold Coast (19)