By Tyler Lewis
Sam Flanders is destined for greatness.
The highly touted youngster is a no nonsense type of footballer who carries that attitude off the field.
Flanders begun his sporting career from a small town with a much rounder ball in his hands, but like many talented kids, had to make a decision about which sport suited him best.
“I originally was from a small town called Fish Creek, I played bottom age fourths at Fishy and then came over to Moe for my top age under-16s,” he explained.
“It (Fish Creek) is a small town, maybe only a thousand people there.
“Fourths is just bottom age under-16s.
“I used to play a lot of basketball – I came over to footy later. I always played footy, but I was always basketball dominated.
“When I was about 15, I swapped from basketball to footy, I think it was just more realistic.
“It was a bit different, a career change, a refresher coming across and I fell in love with the game and it has been all up hill from there.
“I just find it exciting, playing so much basketball to move across, it was good.”
Flanders explained how important his basketball background has been in his development as a footballer.
“(I learned from) the explosive sides of basketball – which is my strength. That explosive power I feel like I got from playing basketball. You know two or three times a week with basketball you are training that explosivenes,” he said.
“And to have soft hands, you always have a ball in your hands in basketball so when you come over from footy you are much cleaner.”
Expected to go within the top 10 of the AFL Draft, Flanders isn’t overwhelmed by the hype of his performances by the media, because he knows what really matters hasn’t been said yet.
“At the start it is all exciting, people talking about you and stuff,” he said.
“Your mates at school will have a joke about it but at the end of the day it really means nothing.
“What is put on social media in terms of draft means nothing – you aren’t picked until your name is read out.
“People can say heaps of stuff, but like I said you aren’t guaranteed anything.”
Like many draft prospects, Flanders has had to sit with his potential future club – an experience the Lowanna College student says can be nerve-wracking not knowing what to expect from the questions or approach of the recruiters.
“It is pretty nerve wracking really, you don’t know what to expect,” he said.
“After doing a couple you get used to it and get a feel of some of the questions. Most clubs usually ask the same sort of questions.
“It is definitely nerve wrecking waiting for them to come because you don’t know if they are going to be really hard or really casual.
“it is all exciting, something new and gives you good skills because it is like a job interview, it gives you good skills for outside of football as well.
“(But) I haven’t had any weird questions yet, I wish I had one because some of the stories people have.
“I wish someone had of asked me one, it would have been a good story to tell but all pretty plain questions I have had unfortunately.”
Flanders played one of his best games on the weekend where he often went toe to toe with suspected number one draft pick Matthew Rowell. Although fairly pleased with his performance as an individual, the right-footers’ mind will move onto what he can do for Gippsland in the do-or-die clash this week.
“That is what I wanted to do, coming off a not so good game to finish off the season against Bendigo,” he said.
“I wanted to bounce back and it was one of the most anticipated games in terms of midfields – our midfield versus Oakleigh’s.
“Other than Nationals this is obviously the biggest stage and the most pressure.
“Even though we didn’t win which was obviously the main result, it was a little bit pleasing.
“But the job wasn’t done and we need to come out and go one better.
“You respect who you are playing on but I am out there to do my job and win it for our team.
“But if you tackle them and know who you are tackling you always try to put a little bit extra on it.”
Flanders is one of 21 Vic Country players to be invited to the National Combine which is one of the last opportunities for selectors to eye off the physical capabilities of each player, although a crucial date in the calendar – he will focus on what is at hand for Gippsland first.
“Depending how far we go in finals will dictate it a lot,” he said.
“If we are fortunate enough to make the grand final, I think it is only a week or two weeks leading to combine, there isn’t a lot you can do.
“It will just be kicking the legs over, a lot of recovery to try and prime myself for the combine.
“But if we are unlucky and go out this week, it will be a lot of running.
“Endurance isn’t my strength so trying to get right for the 2km – that is the main goal for me especially.
“The vertical leap and the 20m sprint will definitely be my strength.”
With only one Victorian club expected to hold a draft pick inside the top five, the North Melbourne supporter isn’t phased by the thought of stepping out of home and onto a plane interstate.
“I moved houses when I was mid-way though year nine and I boarded with family friends,” he said.
“I have sort of had to do it already and sort of know what it is going to be like.
“My brother lives over in Perth so if I am fortunate enough to go out to Perth I know that I still have family over there.
“Everywhere has their pros and cons.”
With a bright future ahead of him, Flanders holds many career aspirations – not only in the immediate future but in the long term as well.
“Short term, to win the NAB League and have success with this Gippy Power team,” he said.
“Long term is just you know the ideal, to play 200 to 250 games, win premierships, that is the main goal.
“I think if you are not sort of trying to achieve that than what are you playing for – why not go all the way.”