'Fire Starters' is a series of in-depth feature articles on some of our top prospects in 2022, exploring their performance in 2022, their preparation for the draft, and their aspirations for the future, written by Nathan Sepe, Dylan Bolch, and Jonty Ralphsmith.
It’s been nothing short of a successful year for Cam Mackenzie, with three premierships in less than 12 months holding him in great stead leading into the 2022 AFL Draft.
Mackenzie’s 2022 season was a culmination of work ethic, perseverance, and goal setting, with his main aim being to improve on his centre stoppage work.
“Something I looked to improve on coming into this year, from last year was my breakaway speed and explosiveness,” Mackenzie said.
“It was something Crippa (Wayne Cripps) was quite big on, using my legs more and improving my explosiveness and it’s something I’ve been able to showcase.
“He was very much pushing me to show that ability which allowed me to adjust my game and I definitely noticed improvements in that area, but it’s still something that I’m working on.”
Mackenzie came into the 2022 year under a fitness program made by the Brighton Grammar Strength and Conditioning Coach, which developed his power and strength across the board in his performances.
Mackenzie averaged 24.1 disposals and 4.8 inside 50s across the NAB League season, including finals, showcasing the strengths of his agility and power within the centre stoppages, a catalyst to the Dragons’ transitional work throughout the year.
Mackenzie says his great form was part of a consistent weekly routine that helped him to maintain optimum performance levels come the weekend’s game.
“I’d do two gym sessions a week, a heavier one on Tuesday and one on Thursday which was a more explosive and lower load session,” Mackenzie said.
“I just try and keep the weeks the same and go into each game with the same mindset, which helps me stay consistent.”
Mackenzie’s form in Dragons’ colours earned him a spot in the Vic Metro side that went unbeaten in the Under 18 National Championships.
“I loved the National Championships. It was obviously great you get to play with and against the best players in the country, but you also get to meet a lot of new people from different regions you don’t know that well,” Mackenzie said.
“I didn’t want to cruise through metro just being average, I wanted to have an impact at that level as well.”
“They were massive games and had heaps of hype behind them. You always want to play in big games and there was always pressure in that sense.”
“I was pretty happy with how the four games went and I think I was able to showcase my strengths and consistency throughout.”
Mackenzie felt that his Vic Metro selection this year was a major contributor to his confidence in performance and skill level.
“It was a step in the right direction and it gave me a lot of confidence getting that recognition and knowing you can compete with and play with the very best,” Mackenzie said.
Balance has been another important aspect for Mackenzie throughout 2022, completing his VCE studies and maintaining healthy training habits on the football field.
“I’ve been happy with how I’ve been able to balance the year,” said Mackenzie.
“There have been busy periods in year 12 where you have a lot going on, but I’ve managed to get good grades at school and also continue to go to each training session and train well.”
Down at RSEA Park, Mackenzie’s intentions were all emphasised on early season performance, looking to put his best foot forward in the opening four games before school footy commenced.
“I came into this year feeling pretty good. I put a big emphasis on playing well in the first four Dragons’ games to set up my year,” Mackenzie said.
“That was a big achievement at the time, playing well in those first four games and being able to get my name out there.”
Mackenzie finished his season at the Dragons like he started, having an impressive finals series that saw him average 24 disposals, 11.8 kicks, 4 tackles, and 6 inside 50s.
Mackenzie was also one of the best on ground in the NAB League Grand Final, tallying 26 disposals and kicking two goals in the win.
Mackenzie’s third premiership came at school level, winning the joint premiership with Brighton Grammar in the APS competition.
With exams finished, Mackenzie is focused on raising the bar in his performance standards, looking for a smooth transfer into an AFL club.
“I want to have a strong five weeks leading into the draft,” Mackenzie said.
“If my name does get read out, I want to enter an AFL environment feeling fit and ready to impress early on.”
Mackenzie has proven all season the dominance he possesses in any midfield unit, with the ability to outwork opponents with his cleanliness in the centre stoppages and make an impact in contested scenarios across the ground.
The 2022 AFL Draft will take place on the 28th of November with Round 1 selections, and the 29th of November with the remaining rounds.