By Tyler Lewis
To be a mature-aged draft pick, it takes a certain set of skills.
Resilience, patience and work ethic to name a few.
All traits that Casey – now swingman – Corey Ellison can admire about himself.
Ellison has started the season with the Demons extremely well, playing as a key post at a different end to the ground that he has known for home club Cranbourne.
While he was in and around the Dandenong Stingrays squad for a number of years, he never quite earned a regular position, but when he wasn’t donning the Rays threads, he was back at Cranbourne playing alongside mature, big bodied defenders.
A path he now thinks has helped him in his transition into regular VFL footy.
“I was probably a bit different to most (at the Rays), I was in and out of the team,” he said.
“In my bottom age year, I think I played three games, then in my top age year we had a really strong team and I think I played seven games.
“I missed out on the flag unfortunately but looking back it has driven me to work a bit harder which is good.
“I think not getting games at the Stingrays and then going back to Cranbourne and playing a lot of senior footy actually helped making the jump from NAB League to VFL,” Ellison said.
While leaping onto the Demons list at the start of 2020, Ellison was still a lightly-framed teenager and was shifted out of the contest easily.
But a bit of time at home – particularly in his garage – during the time season 2020 was meant to be in full flight, has helped the young prospect.
“The first year I was at Casey, I played four or five practice games and I was just getting thrown around heaps.
“Lockdown actually helped me a lot, I put on a lot of size and it has helped me this year not getting thrown off the ball.
“You’re going against guys that have been in the system for 10 years and coming straight out of NAB League – even though I played a lot of senior footy – I was nowhere near where I needed to be physically.
“That year off I hit the gym pretty hard and I am finding I can handle the bigger bodies a bit better.
“For me it was putting on six or seven kilograms, that was the main focus.
“I was about 83 or 84kg at the start of 2020 and once lockdown happened I was fortunate enough to get some gym equipment for the garage and I was able to put on six or seven.
“It was about putting on the right weight as well, not just beefing up for the sake of it,” Ellison said.
In his overall matches this year, Ellison played for Cranbourne on Anzac Eve, booting six majors in a big win which was rewarded with a game for Casey, where he played as a key defender.
A change at the elite level he is enjoying.
“I actually quite like it, it mixes it up a bit and adds another string to my bow,” he said.
“I trained most of the pre-season as a forward and then as the season started to come around and when Melbourne signed Maj (Majak Daw), we ended up being stacked with key forwards.
“I had four or five weeks of training and had a practice match, I picked it up better than we all probably thought I would.
“I know what makes it hard for me when I am playing as a forward when you have a defender doing certain things, it gives you a few little tips and tricks.
“Now if I am back at Cranbourne I can play forward or back, if there is a spot (forward) at Casey, I can put my hand up for that, but it just gives me more options to play and I like going back and forward,” Ellison said.
While new to the role, Ellison has thrived in the opportunity, especially on the weekend in the Demons one-point victory over Geelong.
He played one of his better matches at VFL level and it was against top end opposition, a performance that instills the youngster with deep confidence.
“It gives me heaps of confidence,” Ellison said
“When you’re coming up against AFL players that have been in the system for 10 years and you can at least match it with them and not feel out of place, it reinforces in my mind that it is not far away for a lot of us down at Casey,” he said.
“A lot of the Melbourne boys will reassure us of that as well, that we are all good footballers and as close to the level as we can be.
“Coming up against guys like (Rhys) Stanley and (Josh) Jenkins and being able to break even with them is a massive confidence booster.”
As for his development as a forward throughout his younger years, who better to master the craft from than sitting inside the forward arc with Cranbourne legend, Marc Holt.
Ellison has relished his chance to learn from the Cranbourne spearhead, admitting Holt makes his job a lot easier.
“He is great to play with, I was a bit sad when he left in the 2019 season,” he said.
“Every time I have played with him, he has helped me out, given me pointers, he is not the sort of bloke that says, ‘get out of my 50’, he is there to help everyone.
“He has been great for little tips, when to lead, when to hold back, all that sort of stuff.
“It is fun playing with him because he tends to take the best three defenders and then I am stuck with the fourth, so it is awesome,” Ellison joked.