Stringer primed for AFL national draft camp

JAKE Stringer has endured many highs and lows in his past two football seasons.

In the lead-up to tomorrow’s start to the four-day AFL national draft camp, Stringer spoke about the pain of a season-ending broken leg, rehab and eventually getting back to play for the Bendigo Bank Pioneers, as well as matches for the AIS-AFL Adademy, Victoria Country, Eaglehawk and Bendigo Gold.

His first games in the 2011 and 2012 TAC Cup seasons threw up vastly different emotions.

Just minutes into the 2011 campaign, Stringer sustained a compound fracture in his left leg as Bendigo tackled North Ballarat at Eureka Stadium.

All of a sudden Stringer’s season was over.

Fast-forward to 2012 and the strong-marking forward kicked nine goals in his comeback to TAC Cup action as the David Newett-coached Pioneers thrashed Northern Knights.

It was a frustrating time on the sidelines.

There were many months where he was not allowed to run, but could work out in the gym.

Stringer’s last stint in surgery was in February when the pins and rod were removed.

“I couldn’t train for two weeks after surgery, but four weeks later was playing for the AIS-AFL Academy against Box Hill,” Stringer said.

His versatility was to the fore as he played a mixture of centre half-forward or full-forward, centre half-back, or onball and was selected on interchange in the TAC Cup Team of the Year.

Pioneers captain, Echuca’s Oliver Wines, also bound for the draft camp, was selected in the centre.

Stringer rated the last six weeks of the season, which included matches for the Hayden Skipworth-coached Bendigo Gold as 23rd player in the VFL, as his best.

“Playing in the VFL against Box Hill and the final against Williamstown was a great challenge,” Stringer said of playing across half-forward or in midfield for Gold.

“The main thing was to get back and enjoy playing footy,” he said of goals for 2012.

A nine-goal haul in game one, did so, but also raised expectations that he could dominate in a lot of matches.

“It didn’t quite work out that way,” said Stringer, who first played for Maryborough in the under-12s.

“Just gaining confidence took a while, as did getting up to match fitness.

“There were a lot of challenges all season and there will be a lot more.”

The season included Jake lining up for the Luke Monaghan-coached Eaglehawk in the round 14 clash with Strathfieldsaye on the Borough’s turf at Canterbury Park. 

The Stringers, Jake and older brother Brad were best afield as the Hawks beat Storm. The eldest of the Stringer brothers, Travis is overseas.

Since Jake’s footy season ended it’s been a mix of cycling, running, swimming and weight training in preparation for the draft camp which will include a 3km run, vertical leap tests, beep test, kicking drills and  more at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium.

“My training program has been different to a lot of other draft prospects because of the injury,” Stringer said.

“It’s been important not to rush to get to elite fitness, but gradually build up aerobic fitness and strength as the year has gone on.”

At 191cm and 91kg, Stringer had the size to play key position as well as being able to run through midfield or onball.

In terms of playing AFL, Stringer is likely to be more of a flanker or midfielder than at full-forward.

Parents John and Donna have ridden the roller-coaster ride of Jake’s sporting pursuits,  which included representing Victoria Country at the national under-16 basketball championships in 2009.

Jake was courtside at the QEO watching girlfriend Abby Gilmore throw the winning goal for Eaglehawk in the A-grade netball grand final against Sandhurst.

 For Jake there’s already a link to the AFL as his uncle, Jamie Bond played one senior match for Fitzroy in 1991 against Melbourne at the MCG.

Bond had played under-19s with Hawthorn and was drafted to the senior list in ’88. He played reserves in ’89 as a powerful Hawthorn attack which included the likes of Dermott Brereton, Jason Dunstall, Garry Buckenara and Peter Curran won a classic grand final against Geelong by a goal.

Bond would later return to Maryborough and play at centre half-forward in the Neville Massina-coached premiership-winning teams in 1998 and ’99. Bond won the Michelsen Medal as the league’s best and fairest in 1996.

For Jake Stringer, it doesn’t matter whether it’s with the Magpies, Hawks, Bulldogs, Tigers, Bombers, Blues, Cats or any other club, he is just keen to achieve his goal of playing in the AFL.

After this week’s camp it will be an anxious build-up to November 22 and draft day on the Gold Coast.

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