Fancy staying at a Melbourne hotel with a free breakfast buffet, unlimited powerade and sitting around the dinner table chewing the fat with 20 AFL players?
For Sandy Dragon Luca Macnab, that was a reality on 6 May ahead of his VFL debut against Williamstown.
The opportunity came after two years of consistency at NAB League level in the hiatus after the first four rounds.
In his first go against senior bodies, he collected six possessions, playing an unfamiliar half forward role where the guidance of players including Alex Sexton and ex-Dragon Charlie Constable helped him settle.
“It was really good because I was learning throughout the game,” Macnab explained.
“I was open-minded going in to it where I wasn’t really worried about being vulnerable in that position because I had never played it before.
“I played a position that was foreign to me and still felt comfortable so if I was playing a position I was familiar with, I’d be even more comfortable.”
Macnab believed the run acclimatised him to the physicality and pace of the next level and will not shy away from further opportunities.
“I lined up on the Willy captain and I reckon he weighed 30 more kilos than me – I went to push him and went backwards, but I felt like I was up to the level.”
When asked about his goals for the rest of the season, Macnab gives the typical response, with an atypical gusto.
“I want to win a premiership, so badly,” he said, pausing expressively, heightening the volume of his voice and ballooning his eyes to enunciate the last two words.
After playing in a talent stacked team in 2021 where 12 names found their way on to AFL lists and having been involved with Sandringham since 2019, he possesses a significant attachment to a transient environment.
Unlike most others, when Sandringham has breaks in its schedule, Macnab does not usually play any other footy. Being out of year 12 means there is no school footy, and he is too old for Vic Metro consideration.
It means the only way he can taste team success in 2022 is through the Dragons, providing him with the impetus to drive the group.
He tends to be one of the earlier arrivals at training and did his pre-training craft with Hugo Hall-Kahan in the first half of the season.
Currently, goalkicking is part of his routine prior to training. Previously footwork has been intertwined and fundamentals – as with anyone - are the constant. There is always a purpose.
When assessing the skillset that got him to the club, Macnab’s ability to bring people together his ability to mould a culture is always given as a key attribute.
Now it’s time to solidify that in time for a tilt at the flag.
“I’ve made relationships I 100 per cent would not have made if I didn’t stay at Dragons this year and a lot of boys would say that I think, so I just want to draw on those to make sure we’re tight and bind together so we’re harder to play against.”
Luca’s own footy stems from his team-first mantra.
The Dragons’ annihilation of Tasmania in round four doubled as arguably Luca’s best performance of the year.
Getting the ball, seeing a target and quickly hitting it has always been in the repertoire for Macnab.
After training to become more potent with his possession, and allowing leg-speed to complement his efficient gives, he was able to gain more territory with his 20 touches against the Devils.
“I want to be an impact player more than just a statistical player. I want to be taking ground before I give it so I can really show my kick.”
Macnab has become a solid contributor in his new wing position, averaging over 18 touches per game in a side where outside players have been at times under-utilised.
With only one previous game of experience in the position under his belt prior to the season, he approached the challenge simply from the outset: hold shape and remain in line with the ball.
With time, more layers have been added to Macnab’s role to allow him to get back in defence and springboard attacking chains.
Chats with the coaching staff had indicated some more time off halfback in the second half of the season. In what was to be his first match in the defence for the season against Western two weeks ago, he reminded everyone of his instinctiveness before a first half ankle injury prematurely ended his day.
His team-first mantra is reiterated when he is deliberately non-committal on his preferred position.
“I said to Crippa: ‘I want to play half back but if finals roll around and I play wing, I am more than happy – it means I can get higher up the ground and impact in the front half. As long as I am contributing, that’s the main thing’.”
If there is a premiership at the end of the road, he doesn’t care where he plays.