'Dragons Tales' is a series of indepth feature stories on some of our top prospects in 2021, exploring their junior careers, their upbringing, the ups and downs of the dealing with COVID complications and more, written by Jonty Ralphsmith. This week we will be focusing on midfielder Finn Callaghan.
Finn Callaghan first caught the eye this year during a preseason match for Sandy.
Coach Jackson Kornberg had seen the ingredients: added strength, footy smarts, composure, an increasingly lethal left foot and dash, and today was the day it came together.
Jacob Edwards stole the limelight that day as he began his case for selection at the mid-season draft. But for many, equally as impressive was the eminence of Callaghan who had maximum impact on the wing.
Spoken to independently of each other, the Sandy coaches each volunteer one specific highlight that garnished a terrific game.
Streaming down the wing, Callaghan tucked the ball under his arm, took a couple of bounces as he reached full pace, then stopped on the spot, moved through traffic, stepped laterally, and finished from 50.
Glances and raised eyebrows were exchanged amongst the coaches, in awe of what they had just witnessed.
It was a long jump from what 2020 Sandringham coach Josh Bourke recalls of Callaghan at the start of preseason last year.
“Our conversation was that I thought he could be draftable, he wasn’t at that level yet but had a lot of work to do,” Bourke recalls.
“And his hard work in a really difficult situation (COVID) for a kid to do the work has been very impressive.
“[In preseason last year] he was just starting to show potential in the contest and could compete down and was strong enough, put on enough size.
“But again, you thought it would be a leap for him to put it all together – he’d been good without really ripping apart a practice match or anything like that."
His work throughout 2020 and prior dominance will come in later stories, but a silver lining of last year's footy absence was his ability to tailor his attention to cricket for one final season.
Always a prodigious batter at Mordialloc Cricket Club, regularly named captain throughout juniors for his handy cricket brain, he got a taste of senior cricket this year.
He played in Mordi’s thirds to start the 2020-21 season, with a 77 not-out in his second match propelling him to a firsts debut. He became an anchor at number four for the rest of the season, averaging a tick over 30 in his 12 firsts games, his best performance at that level being a half-century in the grand final to guide Mordi to victory.
"He was the youngest player out there and he batted nearly the whole innings and won them the grand final," said St. Bede’s footy coach Owen Lalor who happened to be watching.
"He’s playing against all these 30-year-olds and he looked the most talented batter out on the ground. Like the way he plays footy, he's very skilful."
He has contacts in the cricket pathway still, through his various representative commitments during juniors but never waivered from his prioritisation of footy.
“I tapered off cricket a little bit, to focus on my football from 14-17 – (I) played cricket but didn’t do as much training because I was very strong that footy would be first and [Mordialloc] were great with that," Callaghan said.
Stepping up in big games and providing consistent output. That would prove a common feature of Callaghan’s sporting exploits in 2021.
In tomorrow's edition of Dragons Tales, we'll review his season game-by-game.