WHAT a difference a year makes.
This time 12 months ago Jake Stringer was struggling to keep up with his mother and girlfriend while walking around the Kennington Reservoir.
Last night the Bendigo Pioneers star was drafted by the Western Bulldogs with selection five in the AFL National Draft.
“I’m just stoked to be picked up by the Bulldogs,’’ Stringer said last night.
“I still had no idea that I was going to be picked up by the Bulldogs, so I’m very happy.”
A badly broken leg in round one of the 2011 TAC Cup season threatened to derail Stringer’s AFL dream.
The teenager put himself through a painstaking recovery program and the hard work paid off last night.
“They were walking slowly and I still couldn’t keep up with them,’’ Stringer recalled of his walks with family last summer.
“My leg set me back 12 months and then it’s taken me another 12 months to get into the sort of form I was in before that.
“There were times when I went through patchy stages, but once I got training again I took off from there.”
Jake’s father John said he never had any doubts about his son’s recovery.
“We’re positive people and it was just a matter of supporting Jake,’’ John said last night.
“When he broke his leg he put in his phone how many days it would take him to recover and he mapped out a plan accordingly. We rallied around him and kept things positive.”
John Stringer said he was elated when the Bulldogs’ recruiting staff read out his son’s name.
“We think he’s in really good hands at the Bulldogs,’’ he said.
“From a parents point of view we couldn’t be happier.”
While Jake Stringer will only be a car trip down the Calder Highway away from his family and friends, his Pioneers team-mate Ollie Wines is heading interstate after being selected with pick seven by Port Adelaide.
Up until two days ago the midfielder was tipped to be picked by Melbourne with selection four.
But when Melbourne went with Jimmy Toumpas at selection four, Wines was snapped up by Port Adelaide.
Echuca-based Wines is not concerned by the move across the border.
“All the hard work of the previous three years has paid off,’’ Wines said.
“I’m looking forward to moving to Adelaide, starting training and meeting all the boys.
“I had a talk with the Port Adelaide recruiting team and coach Ken Hinkley today and I had a fair idea coming here tonight that I’d probably end up at Port Adelaide.
“I’m over the moon and excited to get started.”
Other Bendigo Pioneer draft hopefuls will now turn their attention to next month’s AFL Rookie Draft.
It was a big night for Macedon Ranges football products.
Gisborne Rookies’ Jonathan O’Rourke was the second selection overall by the GWS and he’ll be joined at the Giants by Macedon’s Lachie Plowman, who was taken with the third pick.