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Anzac Jumper

3:30pm  Apr 19, 2018

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Speedy Dee set to deliver on promise

Ben Guthrie  December 18, 2017 10:44 AM

Mum was, in many ways, my biggest fan and I actually promised her that I'd get on an AFL list and to actually achieve that it was a pretty significant moment in my life

BEFORE his mother Trudie passed away following a long battle with cancer in May, Oskar Baker promised her he would find his way onto an AFL list.

Baker fulfilled that dream last month when he was selected by Melbourne with pick No.48 in the 2017 NAB AFL Draft.

The resilient teenager, who has already impressed those at the club with his pace and ability to take the game on, plans to honour his Mum by donning a black arm band in every game he plays from now on. 

"Mum was, in many ways, my biggest fan and I actually promised her that I'd get on an AFL list and to actually achieve that it was a pretty significant moment in my life," Baker told AFL.com.au.

"With everything that happened, it motivated me to be a better footballer and a better person on and off the field." 

Trudie Baker was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 and underwent chemotherapy treatment. Follow-up scans were showing signs that the cancer may have cleared.

However, at the end of 2015 the disease resurfaced in the form of bone cancer. After another bout of chemotherapy, Trudie displayed some signs of improvement, but, in subsequent scans it was evident the cancer had never really gone away.

Early this year the cancer spread to Trudie's liver and Oskar would come home after training with NEAFL club Aspley and see his Mum lying in bed and not being able to be as active as he once remembered.

She passed away on May 21, just four days before her son's 19th birthday.

Throughout such a devastating time in his life, Baker's football improved out of sight and by August he had recruiters buzzing with the football he was producing at Aspley. 

By that point of the season, the 19-year-old was averaging 16 disposals and a goal a game in 13 matches at senior level, with his long, searching runs and searing pace grabbing people's attention. 

"It was a shattering time for me and the whole family but footy has really been an escape for me this year and it really helped take my mind off things," Baker said.

Baker's resilience has been unmistakable throughout his football journey as well.

As a 15-year-old, the Queenslander was cut from the Brisbane Lions' academy, considered to be the major pathway onto an AFL list for talent in the northern states of Australia.

Baker stood just 160cm at the time and he said his lack of height and strength were clear disadvantages.

But the explosive midfielder, who classes himself as a late developer, has grown 13cm since and is now much more confident in the way he attacks the contest.

Dubbed the 'Ginger Ninja' during his time with Aspley, that moniker has already stuck in his first two weeks at the Demons.

"It is a little corny but I'm happy to keep the nickname, so if that's what people want to call me then go for it,'" he said.

Baker is training with the midfield group and he said being surrounded by Nathan Jones, Max Gawn and Clayton Oliver had already given him a glimpse of how hard you have to work to become a consistent AFL player.

"I'm loving it, the work is hard but I'm sure the rewards will come in the near future," Baker said.

"I see this year being a development year for myself, personally, but if an opportunity to play AFL footy then I'd love to take it with both hands."

If Baker is lucky enough to make his debut this season, he will run out onto the MCG with the black arm band wrapped around his bicep.

"It was a little idea that I came up with so I can just have that reminder that she'll always be with me," Baker said.