CLAYTON Oliver says it was a “weird feeling” climbing up the draft rankings when he was eventually selected by Melbourne at No.4 in last year’s NAB AFL Draft.
Last year’s Morrish Medal winner – for the best player in the TAC Cup – Oliver continually went up the pecking order in the lead-up to the draft, before Melbourne snapped him up with its first pick.
The 18-year-old couldn’t believe his fortunes, reflecting back on draft day.
“I didn’t think I was going to get drafted, but then all of a sudden they were saying I was going to go [in the top 20]. I didn’t want to believe it too much,” he told Dee TV.
“Then I got invited to the draft in Adelaide and that was a bit of a shock – as soon as that happened that meant I was going somewhere. I had no idea where I was going [though], so it was all a bit of a shock when my name got called out.
“I don’t really know why it happened to be honest. I hadn’t really played any footy and I just started going up the lists. It doesn’t really mean too much now – all of us first year players are in the same boat.”
Oliver, who hails from Echuca and later Mooroopna, after playing for Bendigo Pioneers and Murray Bushrangers, said his journey had a slightly alternative path.
“It’s been a bit of a different journey to most of [the other first year players] I think. I’ve gone to a few different clubs and a few different TAC clubs as well, but as long as I got here in the end, that’s good,” he said.
“It has been tricky; I’ve had to form new relationships with a whole different group of people because I’ve moved from a different club and a different town.”
Oliver said the jump from the TAC Cup to AFL had been big.
“I honestly had no idea. A few of the AIS boys, they got to go to an AFL club for a week, so they had a bit of an understanding, but I didn’t have any idea of what it was going to be like. I didn’t expect too much; I just wanted to get in there and see it for myself,” he said.
“At the start, we were eased into it, so we weren’t really doing much at all, which was really frustrating. But the coaches knew what they were doing, so it’s worked out really well.
“Just after Christmas, we had the Maroochydore camp and it all picked up from there. It’s been really tough. I was a little bit run down, but it’s all right now.”
Oliver tempered expectations about what he could achieve in his first year.
“I’m not really expecting too much. I probably won’t be ready for AFL just quite yet, so I’d be happy with a couple of games. I’ll stick to VFL and develop my football and I hope to be at the club for a few years,” he said.
“I don’t pay attention to all that [external exepcation]. A few of my mates and my mum and dad, they look at it, but I don’t read too much into it.”
Oliver said Angus Brayshaw, Jack Viney and Nathan Jones had been strong influences on him already.
“All of the boys have been really welcoming and they’ve made it enjoyable, so you can’t really ask for much more and I just can’t wait for the games to start,” he said.
“I’ve started to look to Jack Viney a little bit; he’s so professional so I look up to him. Nathan Jones has been really good. After the Maroochydore camp, he looked after me pretty well, so I’m thankful for that.
“[I’ve spent] most of my time with the first year boys; we’ve stuck together pretty well. Everyone is really good to you [though] and everyone is your mate.”
As for his nickname ‘Clarry’? Oliver said he had embraced it, which he had earned during his days at the Murray Bushrangers.
“I’d never had a nickname … but then my assistant coach at the [Murray] Bushrangers was reading the board out and he looked down at the team list. He thought it said ‘Clarence’ instead of Clayton, so he said ‘Clarence Oliver’ and it stuck from there,” he said.
“Then the coach, Darren Ogier, who actually does some Casey [Scorpions] development at Melbourne, called me ‘Clarry’ and it’s stuck around ever since.
“It’s all good. I like to be up and about and all of the boys have been good to all the first year players.”