'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.
The continual rise of Harry Sheezel in 2022 has kept the spotlight on him all year, with moment after moment defining a top-class season.
Sheezel was lucky enough to play throughout the whole season for the Dragons, building on his strengths and fine-tuning his weaknesses from preseason until Grand Final week.
“I had a pretty big uninterrupted preseason and stayed consistent from last year into this year,” Sheezel said.
“My focus in the preseason was building on my speed and I think I really improved on that in the early parts of the year.”
“I was able to show that I do have speed and power.”
Sheezel represented the Australian Academy side early in 2022, where he played against Collingwood’s VFL side, a game he says was a new experience against bigger bodies.
“I felt like it was more contested and team-based,” Sheezel said.
“They all knew what they had to do and it worked so well that I found it hard to play my type of game.”
The Academy game gave Sheezel the extra boost he needed to innovate his game style, learning to match any opponent he came across.
Sheezel says his diversity in movement has been his biggest improvement in 2022.
“I think my ability now to find different ways to beat my opponents rather than rely on my football smarts and agility has improved the most,” Sheezel says.
“This year I’ve been able to learn some new tricks with the coaching staff and find new ways to beat opponents that might be faster or stronger than me in all different ways.”
Sheezel went into the first major NAB League break with 13 goals to his tally, the leading goalkicker in the NAB League at the time.
The form continued for Sheezel who averaged 2.4 goals per game once games resumed a month later until the Grand Final.
Sheezel says his consistency is routine-based, knowing that he has the ability to put in the extra work that others might not.
“I stay pretty consistent with my training and everything I do,” Sheezel said.
“I focus a lot on recovery and nutrition which I think doing that extra percent puts me above some other in my age group.”
Surrounded by the likes of Charlie Clarke in the forward line, Sheezel says he also takes inspiration from the likes of his teammates and coaches.
“I like learning as much as I can from other players in terms of being professional and then learning knowledge from coaches as well,” Sheezel said.
With consistent performance comes constant media attention, which Sheezel says wasn’t the biggest pressure of 2022.
“Your mates send you stuff, your parents see it, and you get sent it, which puts a bit of pressure on, but I think I respond to it pretty well,” Sheezel said.
“I put a lot of internal pressure on myself and if I do put that pressure on myself usually I can perform under it.”
Sheezel had a period of injury woes towards the back end of 2022 with his hip, which he says allowed him to build on more aspects of his forward craft.
“Something I worked on with Crippa (Wayne Cripps) a lot was beating my opponents in different ways and using my leading patterns effectively,” Sheezel said.
When the midfield opportunities came along for Sheezel, he says it was a move he came to love in Dragons colours.
“I really loved playing in the midfield this year when I did go in there early in the season,” Sheezel said.
“It’s the freedom of not having someone following you all day and you can find your own footy.”
“When you have it, you have more choices with it, you can be more creative.”
Creativity however was not an issue Sheezel struggled with, pulling out some terrific highlight reels across 2022.
The 2022 Grand Final was arguably Sheezel’s best performance, kicking 4 goals from 13 touches, on par with his 28 disposals and 6 goals against Tasmania in round 4.
Finding that top form when things weren’t going his way was something Sheezel says he was proud of in 2022, with his ability to bounce back from a poor performance.
I don’t think I had back-to-back games that I wasn’t too happy with this year,” Sheezel said.
“As soon as I play a bad game I know how much it can affect me and I hate feeling that after a game.”
“So I did everything I could the next week, from recovery, nutrition, training, just to get myself in the right headspace and physically feeling well so I can perform.”
Sheezel was invited to the National Draft Combine, however, due to a hip injury, he was unable to complete the testing.
Sheezel says the media side of the combine was a great experience along with the club interviews that gave him a great opportunity to present himself.
“It was kind of like a two-day job interview,” Sheezel said.
“You had to be on time with your meetings and have meetings with most clubs and the media.
“I loved the experience and strengthened a lot of bonds with boys from other regions as well.”
Up until draft night, Sheezel is looking to set his focus on training, building on his ability to become more versatile in his forward craft.
“Training most days of the week in the gym and running is the plan, focusing on speed, power, and lower body, just trying to get myself as ready as I can for hopefully an AFL preseason in a month,” Sheezel said.
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.