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The diary of a recruiter

Action aplenty as Etihad opens Recap the first day of the NAB AFL Trade Period with Collingwood Media's daily trade program News Daily. We cross to Etihad Stadium for opening day news, while also hearing an update from last week's AFL Draft Combine.

The AFL season doesn’t end on Grand Final day.

In fact, if you’re a recruiter, your season begins in earnest in the hours afterwards.

Collingwood’s recruiting staff spent the week following the Grand Final at Docklands Stadium for the AFL Draft Combine, where the nation’s elite junior talent gathers for testing ahead of the November drafts.

National Recruiting Assistant Dominic Milesi kept a log of his activity for the week to help give supporters an insight into the life of an AFL recruiter.

Tuesday 3 October
The potential draftees arrived at the Docklands to undergo a battery of psychological tests as well as medical screening to see whether they are in the right condition to undergo the fitness testing.

The clubs weren't required to attend, so we used the day to hold few meetings about the upcoming trade and draft period with other members of the football department, as well as going over what follow ups we had with any player we were due to meet with over the course of the week.

Richmond father-son prospect Patrick Naish speaks to reporters. Photo: Collingwood Media.

Wednesday 4 October
It was an early start for the team, arriving at the Docklands before 8am to make sure the room was set up for our interviews, as well as ensuring the accreditation for all staff was sorted.

The recruiting staff and a psychologist were involved in every interview during the day, and were joined by other members of the club at different stages to sit in on certain interviews.

The first interview commenced at 8.30am, opening a very hectic day more than 20 interviews back-to-back.

With a lot of the players, we had interviewed them in the past, so a lot of the questions were very targeted, or follow ups to what we had previously dealt with. Others were more general chats with prospective players.

It's amazing how much you can fit into a 20-minute interview. All the interviews are filmed, too, so we can refer back to them at a later date.

The view from the corporate box used by Collingwood's recruiters as a base during the Draft Combine. Photo: Collingwood Media.

Naturally some interviews were better than others, but a bad interview doesn't necessarily rule a player out of contention, and neither does a good one guarantee we will pick that particular player. It's just another piece of the puzzle.

Sometimes things get quite serious, as we really question different things about a player and try to put them under a bit of pressure.

But there are moments of humour as well. When asked "what do you like about yourself?", one player replied "my rig", which broke the ice.

INDICATIVE DRAFT ORDER: Which picks does Collingwood have?

We had a break for lunch, which is used to chat to recruiters from other clubs and players in a bit more of an informal setting. Meanwhile our medical staff was hard at work in another room medically screening all 85 attendees at the Combine over the entire day. We would check in during the day to see how things are going and if there are any players of concern that will need a follow up from a medical point of view.

After a long day of interviews and dinner, the day still wasn't finished, with players then scheduled for skills testing and goal kicking. Although we have already assessed this in game situations over the season, it's still good to have the kicking filmed at different angles for both the coaches and recruiters down the track. This eventually finished at 9.30pm.

Dominic Milesi (front) and Sydney's Rhyce Shaw (main) sit among club recruiters during the yo-yo test. Photo: Collingwood Media.

Thursday 5 October
We were scheduled for a slightly later start, with the 20 metre sprints, vertical jump and agility testing taking place from 9am on the imported floor on the Docklands surface.

This year, for the first time, we received the testing data live straight to our laptops as it happened. But, after watching so many over the years, you can usually tell if a player is testing well from the naked eye. Again, a good or bad result in these doesn't rule a player in or out, it's just another piece of information that will help inform us on a decision.

AFL staff, including National Talent Manager Michael Ablett, crunch the numbers on the interchange bench. Note 2010 premiership hero Luke Ball in the background. Photo: Collingwood Media.

Steele Sidebottom ran the slowest of anyone in his Combine year, back in 2008, so you can't get too caught up in the results. We also had a member of our sports science department join us to assess the player’s running gaits for future reference.

After lunch, the players then took on the yo-yo test.

What is a yo-yo test?
The yo-yo endurance test is similar in style to the infamous beep test, as developed by Danish soccer physiologist Jens Bangsbo. The test evaluates an individual's aerobic endurance fitness. Players run between cones, which are 20 metres apart. Each run is followed by a 10-second recovery and a walk or jog around another cone before returning to the starting point.

The yo-yo test was particularly interesting for us, given we've been watching the beep test for so many years and not many of the players had undergone one before. It was noticeable how a few players were caught out by the quick rise in tempo. Again, the result helps, but with a test like this, you are also looking for the kids that really push to get the most out of themselves, even when they are physically spent.

Dinner was followed by yet more interviews back in our corporate box. The players are starting to tire by this stage so you have to keep that in mind when speaking to them.

Players undergo the yo-yo test during the Draft Combine. Photo: Collingwood Media.

Friday 6 October
The final day of the Combine began with more interviews with players, which this time were extras we added on ourselves.

This was followed by the two-kilometre time trial. It was particularly interesting this year as it was the first time players have not undergone a three-kilometre time trial at the Combine, and the two-kilometre distance is the same distance the club uses. This meant we could quickly compare the results to current players on our list.

Murray Bushrangers Ben Paton, who played as a VFL top-up player for Collingwood in 2017, recovers after the yo-yo test. Photo: Collingwood Media.

Friday also played host to the Victorian State Combine. The players involved in this are those who didn't receive as many nominations from clubs as those who have attended the Draft Combine.

That’s not to say there aren't potential AFL players of the future in this group, though.

It's a big day for these guys, as they do all their physical, medical and psychological testing on one day, as well any interviews with clubs.

Eventually, a long few days’ winds up at around 3pm, which just gives us time to dash home, throw on a suit and tie and head into the Crown Palladium for the Copeland Trophy.

Collingwood father-son prospect Tyler Brown recovers after the yo-yo test. Photo: Collingwood Media.

The road to the National Draft

Tuesday 3 October-Friday 6 October
National AFL Draft Combine

Monday 9 October (9am)
AFL trade period commences

Saturday 14 October
South Australian Draft Combine

Sunday 15 October
West Australian Draft Combine

Sunday 15 October 5pm
Close of AFL Restricted Free Agency Offer and Unrestricted Free Agency Period

Thursday 19 October 2pm
AFL trade period ends

Friday 24 November
National Draft

Monday 27 November
Pre-Season and Rookie Drafts

Monday 27 November
Rookie Draft

Dominic Milesi looks on during the Draft Combine on Thursday 5 October. Photo: Collingwood Media.