By Justin Robertson
MICHAEL Ross was on holiday in Africa when he was trying to get back to Melbourne in time to watch this year’s AFL national draft with his family.
The Gippsland Power half-back was visiting his girlfriend – a volunteer worker at a public school in Malawi – but being the remote destination it is, flights operate only on Wednesdays or Saturdays.
He booked his ticket to Melbourne for the Wednesday before the draft but, because of the time difference, landed in Perth while the second-round draft picks were announced.
By that stage his name was yet to be called out and Ross thought his hopes were dashed.
So he switched off his phone and flew to Melbourne. But what he didn’t know was that during the four-hour flight Essendon picked him at No. 80.
His parents Alan and Vicki – who knew he had become a Bomber – met him when he landed and as they walked out of the gate lounge, Ross was mobbed by his family, all wearing Essendon jumpers.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting that, but I knew something big had happened,” the 19-year-old said.
Ross will now leave his Garlfield acreage and call Windy Hill his home.
“It’s all I wanted to do since I can remember, play AFL,” he said. “Now I have the opportunity I just want to make the most of it. It was pretty exciting to find out I was drafted to the Bombers. I’m still a bit shocked.”
As a Power mature-age recruit, his third year at TAC level proved to be the most vital for his career. After being troubled by injury in his first two years at the club, Ross was thrown a lifeline as a third-year player and repaid his club by having a stand-out season, including a stellar finals series.
“I’m really thankful for Gippsland Power giving me a shot as an over-age player,” said the former Bunyip footballer.
“I thought I had a better year than last year, but I didn’t have that much contact with clubs during the season so I was a bit unsure if I would get drafted.”
Ross joins a quartet of Gippsland Power players to be drafted by AFL clubs – Leongatha’s Dyson Heppell (pick No. 8, Essendon), Yarram’s Jed Lamb (21, Sydney), Morwell’s Dean MacDonald (51, Richmond) and Upper Pakenham’s Tom Bugg who will join fledgling AFL club Greater Western Sydney next year.
“It’ll be good to have someone else from the club to settle down there with,” Ross said of his Power teammate Heppell, who’ll join him at Essendon.
“It’ll be another face I know around the club so it’ll make it a bit easier I guess.”
Ross grew up barracking for Sydney, but then started following North Melbourne once his brother Ben was drafted by them and now the Ross family will boast two AFL footballers as the Roos midfielder just had his contact renewed.
“I expected to maybe get a rookie position somewhere at best,” Ross said about his expectations on getting drafted.
“It turned out this way and I’m not complaining about it.”
By Justin Robertson