FOOTY wasn’t always the dream for Austin Bradtke.
The 19-year-old was a gifted basketballer, but he chose to pursue an AFL career in 2018 and currently holds a Category B rookie spot on Melbourne’s list.
While fans will need to be patient with the 204cm ruckman, he’s doing everything in his power to fast-track his football development.
“Every session I’m doing a whole heap of extra weights, extra everything,” Bradtke told Melbourne Media.
“They’re big boys the big ruckman, so I’ve got to try to lift as many weights as I possibly can to get close to their level.”
Bradtke had a chance to test himself in the seniors this season, taking to the field for the Casey Demons, and he was pleased with the progress he made.
“Coming from no footy for three years to playing 12 VFL games, I thought that was a pretty good personal achievement,” he said.
“It was just a great learning experience being out there playing against grown men.
“I learnt a lot last year – it was really good for me.”
Although the young tall isn’t a stranger to the sport, he’s currently playing catch up for a few lost years.
“I played from Auskick all the way up until I was 15, so I had a fair footy background, but over the last three years there wasn’t much footy there,” he said.
“I’ve absolutely loved my time at the club so far and wouldn’t change it for the world.”
It’s no secret the Demons have had a gruelling start to the pre-season, but from all reports, the boys seem to be enjoying the grind.
“Burgo (Darren Burgess) coming in has been really good,” Bradtke said.
“I think all the boys were pretty prepared for a tough workload.
“It’s been really enjoyable, but we’ve definitely been putting in the hard yards this year.
“I had a little bit of a calf issue at the very start of pre-season, but for the last three or four weeks I’ve been in full training and really enjoying it.”
Every session provides an opportunity for Bradtke to improve his craft, and he has some professional senior figures supporting him along the way.
“Guys like Maxy (Gawn), Tommy Mac, Weido (Sam Weideman), Harry Petty – as a taller group we’re really good at helping each other,” he said.
“I’ve learnt a lot from those guys with how they go about it from week-to-week and how they prepare for games.”
And while Bradtke would love to jump straight into his AFL career, the youngster has put some realistic goals in place for the 2020 season.
“For me it’s just to keep getting better,” he said.
“I’d love to have a really full year of VFL footy.
“I’ll play a little bit of footy up forward this year, so just getting better and seeing where I can take myself.
“I’m not putting too many expectations on myself – just going out there and playing.”