Luke McDonald hadn’t felt nervous. He had grown up around North Melbourne, gone on last year’s pre-season camp, trained at Arden Street one day a week and come to know all of the players and coaches. It was only on Sunday night that he wondered: what if they don’t pick me?
He didn’t have to wait long. McDonald became a North player a few seconds after 10am on Monday. West Coast bid its No.6 draft pick for the midfielder but North matched that with its own first-round pick, No.8, meaning the 18-year-old will be there for the start of pre-season training, instead of having to wait until the national draft in November.
Already, it feels like his second summer. McDonald was allowed to travel with North to Utah last October because the club had already committed to taking him as a father-son pick. He didn’t really know anyone and he wasn’t sure whether to talk up or keep quiet, so until he felt more at ease he stuck to the person he did know: his father, Donald, then the club’s football manager.
”There was a lot to get used to, because when you first start you want to make a good impression,” he said. ”But you also want to be yourself, so you’re not sure whether to come out of your shell and be really outgoing or whether to keep to yourself.
”You want to be respected more than liked and it’s good that I’ve been through that now and feel more comfortable. I can be myself and not worry too much about what people are thinking about me.
”I suppose I feel like I’ve already had my first year at the club. I’ve got to know everyone, I’ve put on a fair bit of weight and it’s going to be a lot easier for me.”
Having finished year 12, McDonald started an arts degree this year, his university timetable giving him time to do more training, working hard with North Melbourne’s development coaches on his ”kicking, marking, handballing and everything in between”.
He played for Werribee in the VFL, starting well, working his way out of a mid-season slump and finding some excellent form in the finals. ”I’m glad I did have that struggle, because it was a good thing to have to deal with and it made me want to finish off the year well and be determined not to let it happen again.”
And while his wait is over, the nerves aren’t. Now that he knows where he is playing he wants to know where the draft will take Jack Billings, Ben Lennon and other close friends. ”I was hoping I’d end up getting picked in the second round so that we had a chance of getting one of those boys,” he said. ”It’s exciting and nervous times for them, but I’ve been through a bit of what they’re feeling and I can be there for them.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.