By Tyler Lewis
With very few elite big men in this year’s draft crop, and fewer with his mindset, Charlie Comben is looming as a major steal in the 2019 AFL Draft.
At an age younger than most, Comben was keen to get the Sherrin in his hands.
“I started playing as a four-year-old in Auskick, I went in a year early, and I was pretty keen,” he said.
“My brother was playing Auskick, mum was able to pull a few strings and I was able to get in early.”
Standing at a reasonable height for quite some time, Comben recently grew a considerable amount, currently standing at 199 centimetres – but with rapid growth spurts often comes the difficult challenge of maintaining the frame fit for the height, and the injuries that come with the growth.
“It (my height) has been kind of gradual in the last few years, I was always average height, a key position height, and then in the last two years I have shot up to a ruck key forward height in the AFL,” he said.
“Through bottom age under-16s I was quite skinny and I started to shoot up and I had various impact injuries.
“Through bottom age ’16s up until last year I have had multiple injuries.
“I haven’t played much footy until this year, (having had) multiple bone breaks.
“Early that season, I broke my wrist, then later in the season representing Gippy at the V/Line Cup I broke my collarbone.
“It was probably 20 seconds into the game, I was on a wing and got taken down in a tackle, landed on my shoulder and all the impact went through there and snapped my collarbone, it put me out of the preseason of ’16/17.
“It was early on so footy was still more so a dream at that point in time.
“The aim was just to get back into the under-16s squad, which I was lucky enough to get into.
“Probably the first two or three games it plays on your mind a bit, more so last year when I came back from a knee injury, it was playing on my mind.
“You get kind of hesitant going into a contest, especially in those first one or two games, but after that you forget about it and the game takes over your concentration.
“It is more a gradual thing; the more you play the less you focus on your injury.”
At the national championships, Comben burst on to the scene with one of the more impressive carnivals – not only demonstrating his talent against highly-touted West Australian ruckman Luke Jackson, but performing in the Victorian derby at the home of football.
For Comben, his composure and eagerness to play his role is epitomised by the way he treats playing in one of the most iconic stadiums in the world.
“It is massive; it is overwhelming when you first get out there,” he said of the MCG.
“When you get out in the middle you look around and it can be overwhelming – you get a massive adrenalin rush from it.
“Leigh Brown, our coach said ‘soak it in for the first five minutes when you are out there and then when the ball is bounced switch on’, which kind of takes care of itself.
“But when the ball is thrown up in the air, it is no different to playing at Morwell.”
In recent times, the National Draft hasn’t been all that kind to ruckman, often being sent to VFL level or NAB League level for a 19th year to develop their bodies for one more year – but Comben is unique, having the capabilities to play in more than one position.
“I am able to play dual position as a forward/ruck,” he said.
“I love watching Esava Ratugolea, he has made the dual forward ruck role his own really.
“He starts up forward and is able to pinch hit in the ruck, which is what I want to do – it is like what Leigh Brown did.
“Obviously I am sure there would be some work put into my frame when I get into a club this preseason if all goes to plan.”
The National Draft will commence on 28 November for the first round, which is continued the following day with the remaining rounds and rookie draft.