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Melbourne Football Club

Lockhart's leap of faith pays off

JAY Lockhart has made a leap of faith in 2018, packing up his bags and leaving home to follow his football aspirations.

The 22-year-old grew up in Tasmania, but has moved to Victoria this year, joining the Casey Demons in a bid to test himself against the best.

“It was just a level up in competition to see how I go against AFL-listed players and good VFL players who have been in the system for a few years,” Lockhart told Melbourne Media.

“Just that challenge really, to come across and have a go at it.”

The Tasmanian saw Casey’s program as an opportunity to improve his football and increase his exposure.

“There’s a great program run here, great guys, great coaching staff and board members and I’m just stoked with the professionalism of the club,” Lockhart said.

Another attraction of the Demons was the recent draftees from the club, with the likes of Bayley Fritsch now having an impact for Melbourne.

“It does give guys coming into the VFL program hope,” he said.

“Guys like Tim Smith and Declan Keilty have come here, and then got drafted and rookie listed.”

Like many young footballers, Lockhart’s dream is to play in the AFL, and Casey senior coach Jade Rawlings said he has what it takes to run out on the biggest stage of all.

“He’s got traits I see that will definitely fit in an AFL system,” Rawlings told Melbourne Media.

“He’s got a high level of competitiveness and intensity, he’s very good overhead for a smaller player and a very good kick.

“He’s certainly picked up VFL intensity very quickly … and been able to marry the required intensity and thrive in it, so I see a lot of his abilities being AFL abilities.”

Lockhart has shown an exceptional level of commitment to the game he loves, and Rawlings believes if he wants to take the next step in his career, he can.

“It’s up to him really,” Rawlings said.

“We all get judged on our performances and what we put out there. There’s a durability perspective and capacity to keep playing week after week … but Jay will forge his own destiny.

“He’s made the courageous move to move over and come test himself at the next level and what he makes of it will be up to him now.”

And that move was one Lockhart didn’t make lightly.

The decision to change states and fight for the dream career is admirable, and it is paying dividends for Lockhart thus far.

“I’m absolutely loving it over here at the moment,” he said.

“I went back [home recently] and I didn’t really want to go to be honest, I’ve been loving it here that much, and there’s just a great bunch of guys over here, it’s hard to get away from.”

Initially Lockhart stayed with a friend in the city, but his partner has since moved over to Melbourne to join him as they settle into Moorabbin.

Back home, Lockhart represented his state at the under-18 level, with undeniable football talent from a young age.

But the pathway for young footballers in Tasmania isn’t as clear as it is in Victoria.

“Under 18s wasn’t too bad when I was there, we had our Under 18 Championships and TAC Cup games which were filtered in,” he said.

“It normally changes a lot over there in terms of the format of it … but hopefully it can get back to a lot more games being played to help the younger guys coming through.”

Lockhart has experience playing in a winning culture, claiming his third premiership with North Launceston in 2017.

“We’ve played in the last four [grand finals] down there,” he said.

“Losing the one before last year was pretty devastating so this one coming last year was pretty exciting, especially for guys who hadn’t won one before, just to win one with those guys there.”

Off the football field, Lockhart likes to put his golf skills to the test.

“I try to get on the golf course as much as possible, I like having a hit,” he said.

“And I’m an apprentice builder down home, so I’m doing a bit of handy work every now and then which is always fun.”

Lockhart has also landed some part-time work in Melbourne at a company led by wife of ex-Casey coach Justin Plapp.

“Plappy and Narelle (Plapp’s wife) were happy to have me over at Food for Health,” he said.

“I’m just doing a bit of work over there for Narelle, and Justin pretty much got me the job from being here.”

With work set-up for Lockhart and a new football club in 2018, he has been able to settle into the Victorian lifestyle, and perform well for the Demons in the early stages of the season.