By Russell Bennett
“I’m still pinching myself, to be honest. It’s just awesome.”
Callum Porter’s sheer jubilation at being drafted by the Western Bulldogs in the fifth round with pick 74 of the AFL National Draft on Friday night was unmistakable.
Speaking to the Gazette in the wake of the draft, the impressive Officer and Gippsland Power product said the initial feeling upon seeing his name read out was “pure shock”.
“It’d obviously been such a long journey and to think it’d finally gotten to that point, it was just shock,” the 18-year-old said.
“When it started to sink in that little bit more I was just unbelievably excited.”
Porter was selected by the 2016 AFL premiers after interviewing with them multiple times in the lead-up to the draft – including once at his home.
And it was at home on Friday night, together with just a few family members, that he saw his draft dream come true right in front of his eyes.
“I kept it pretty low-key because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” he said.
“But once we heard the news heaps of people came straight over and our driveway was completely filled with cars!”
Porter is a realist – he knew the chances of his dream not coming true on Friday night.
“My family and I really had our minds around the nature of the system,” he said.
“It can be quite ruthless at times and with the whole nature of the draft everything can change on the night. Sometimes even the recruiters aren’t sure what’s going to happen – so from that point view there were definitely no guarantees.”
Porter was prepared either way – having also applied for a double bachelor university degree in exercise science and education.
He knows just how important balance is, despite the at-times all-encompassing AFL world.
“Even though everyone will be enjoying their footy it’s pretty full-on, especially for someone just entering the system like myself,” he said.
“It’s definitely important to have a balance outside of footy and something to keep you going. Life as an AFL footballer, whether you’re successful or not, is very short-lived so it’s definitely important to have something after footy, whether it’s job experience or an education.”
Porter said the strength of the Bulldogs’ culture was immediately obvious to him after the outpouring of congratulations he’d already received from those in the club’s inner sanctum.
“In terms of being a young player, I don’t think I could have asked for a better club to go to,” he said.
“They’ve got an outstanding culture.
“I couldn’t fault anything with the whole process – it really is a dream come true.”
Having interviewed with the club numerous times before the draft, Porter knew that his best bet to be drafted lay with the Bulldogs – but the nerves came right to the fore as he was taken with the night’s fifth last pick.
“I’d watched the whole draft and seen other players get picked and it got to the 70s and there was an order of clubs I’d spoken with and I thought that’d probably be the last roll of the dice,” he said.
“I think we got more and more nervous the longer it went. Even though I’d worked really hard (to be drafted) I still think I was super lucky.
“But now that I’m in the system it doesn’t matter if I went early in the draft or later – we all get the same opportunity. Everything is in my hands now – it’s up to me and how hard I want to work in terms of how much I’m going to develop.”
Porter has already begun life as a Bulldog living with Josh Dunkley, another of the club’s Gippsland Power alumni.
Western Bulldogs recruiting manager Simon Dalrymple said immediately after Friday’s draft that: “Cal Porter, with our last pick, is a boy who’s a great competitor, an outstanding young man, and Gippsland Power were glowing in their character reference (of him).
“Cal can play as an inside or outside mid, and he can go forward and he’s good overhead.
“He’s got a great attitude. At that later pick, the ability to come in and work and really train the house down is important and he’s got some good speed, some good power, and he wins the ball in different ways so we think that’s attractive.”