As part of the Sandringham Dragons 30 year celebration, Nathan Sepe and Dylan Bolch interviewed various personnel that have been involved with the Dragons since the inception of the club. These are their stories.
By Nathan Sepe
One of two Morrish Medallists from the Dragons, Liam Stocker left an impact in the Sandringham colours.
In his Under-17 season, he was part of the 2018 grand final side that were unfortunate to come away with the loss.
In 2018, Stocker was drafted to Carlton at pick 19, with the Blues trading their pick to Adelaide, well aware of the talent he possessed.
He has since gone on to play 25 games since then, with some periods of injury lowering his game tally so far.
Dragons Media interviewed Stocker about his story at the Dragons and the memories he has from his time at TAC Cup level.
When did you first get involved in the program?
I think I played my first year of interleague at about Under 14’s and 15’s, and then progressed into the Dragons at the same time. I also came through the Under 16 championships program with the dragons. I didn't make Vic Metro and then progressed into Under 17’s and 18’s. It was sort of my first introduction into professional development.
Who were key personnel who helped your development?
I think the biggest one is probably Jackson Kornberg, who's now an assistant coach at Gold Coast. He was super for me from Under 16’s, 17’s and 18’s. Jeremy Nash was an under sixteens head coach who was really willing to take me under his wing and deliver some hard truth that made me a much better footballer in the coming years.
Any vivid memories from your time at TAC Cup Level?
I think the biggest one for me was the group we had at Under 18’s level. We lost the grand final the year before against the Falcons and then the year we had going through it , I made a lot of lifelong mates in that crew and then even some of the coaches, I still talk to. It's awesome to have people down in the Bayside area that I can talk to about footy and who know my journey.
I think beyond that as well, though, like catching up with those boys, we forged a lot of great memories when you're in the trenches like that together. I don't think I expected it to be as culturally significant as it ended up being, but it was certainly a super experience.
Best opponents you played against?
I think there were a few who were really good matchups. James Rowbottom, who was at Oakleigh was always fun to play against and Walshy (Sam Walsh) was definitely fun to play against… he tore us up a few times over the years. Gryan Miers was another one in my bottom age year that did a really big number on us and the granny.
Who were teammates that stood out for you?
Guys like Max and Ben King, who sort of just pushed me to be a better footballer and Bailey Smith as well. We had a pretty star-studded list that year, but I think for the most part, the guys I played against, which is super competitive and you can sort of see it. It's interesting. I never really saw it the way I see it now, but watching guys come up in under eighteens and their strengths in under 18 seems their strengths of AFL level.
Has the transition from TAC Cup to AFL level improved since you’ve left the system?
I think so. I think the biggest difference for me is the, the tactical nous. At a club like Sandringham, they’re very tactically involved. You can sort of tell the difference when you get into the system, how quickly you're able to pick it up versus the guys that maybe don't get the same education.
I think as well, like the professional aspect of TAC cup provides a much better base to jump into AFL football in comparison. I can't imagine how much of a culture shock would've been if I came straight in from APS football.