'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.
You’d be far-fetched to find a better person than Jakob Anderson amongst NAB League circles.
He’s a well-respected leader, true professional and the ultimate teammate.
All of that was on show in the final two weeks of the NAB League season, where he battled a hamstring injury that Anderson describes as “the lowest point of his year”.
“It was a pretty bad week, everything was starting to click, I’d had two pretty good finals and I just wanted a clean run at it heading into the final games,” he said.
“I was absolutely shattered; I was holding back tears at training knowing what I was going to be missing out on.”
The internal struggle was difficult for Anderson to overcome, but he soon turned his disappointment into focussing on helping the team achieve the ultimate success.
“I was kind of torn because I was obviously stoked for the boys, but it was the hardest thing I’ve had to go through in footy, watching the team I was so invested in. I was pretty shattered I wasn’t going to be part of the success.
“But footy is a cruel game and someone else benefitted off my injury, I just tried to stay positive and tried to do as much as I could to help out.”
Anderson took on a role with the coaching staff in the final two weeks of the season which underlined his unselfish, team-first nature, assisting backline coach Cam Feild.
“I knew I could still have some effect on the team, even if I wasn’t out there.
“Character is something I value really highly, all the other boys were playing the biggest game of their lives and I didn’t want to be a burden on any of them at all
“I saw it as an opportunity to learn from some of our great coaching staff.”
The coaching and medical staff made the call to rule Anderson out approximately 48 hours before the grand final, focussing on getting him fit for the National Championships decider the following week. The decision to target the National Championships decider proved fruitful.
“I got a medal around my neck in the end, so I didn’t leave the year with nothing.
“As much as I wanted a NAB League premiership medal with the Dragons, I left with a National Championships medal, so I can’t really complain too much,” he laughed.
Anderson relished the opportunity to play at Marvel Stadium in front of a big crowd, something that he hopes to be able to do as a full-time career.
He made the move to clamp down on Bailey Humphrey, the projected top-10 pick from the Gippsland Power, and had immediate success.
“I just wanted any opportunity.
“Humphrey started the game off well and was looking dangerous. I got the message at the start of the second quarter that I might have been the best match up.
“I took it on, I thought it was a bit of a make-or-break moment for me because he is so highly touted and is a super damaging player.
“But I just treated it like any other opponent, I backed myself in with my defensive craft. I felt like I executed pretty well and curbed his influence.”
It’s been Anderson’s one-wood all year. Remaining calm and composed under pressure and not being flustered in big moments.
Dingley is “where it all began” for Anderson and he remains as active as ever in the community frequently visiting the local cafes to spend time with family and friends.
“I never really made the Interleague squads back in the day but was lucky enough to get into the Dragons after playing local footy and that’s where it all sort of took off.
Being a part of such a “tight-knit community means a lot” for the gun defender, who still gets down as much as possible to support his local side.
“They’re all really good people and I like to be a bit of a figure and represent them; it’s such a tight knit community and I really love the place.”
Anderson says he had small goals as he approached the year which allowed him to stay focus and play his best football week in, week out.
“Back in November, being drafted seemed a long way away, especially given I hadn’t played any Dragons before.
“The first box I wanted to tick was making the first cut and the second was making the final squad. I wanted to get comfortable and get to know the coaches and players.
“That’s when I started to play to my strengths and show my true colours and I was really proud to be a part of the leadership group this year.
Not only was Anderson a member of the star-studded Dragons leadership group, but he also took the reins as the captain of the Haileybury school side in 2022.
“Leadership comes naturally to me, it’s not something I focus on too much, but I am aware that it is one of my strengths.
“It was something that probably elevated me above players I was at a similar level to. I always try to be very vocal, and I want to be an on-field mentor by leading by example.
Anderson’s “super ruthless” streak shone through when working alongside former Essendon superstar Matthew Lloyd, who coaches the side at Haileybury.
“Lloyd’s extremely passionate and that’s something that I’ve developed through him, the passion for the Haileybury program especially.
“You can’t have too many questions with Lloydy, I’ve had multiple hour-long phone calls with him across the year.
“He’s an ultra-competitive person and that’s something I think I’ve developed over the years.
“He puts me in positions where I can succeed, and I really wanted to do him and the program proud this season.”
Not only has Anderson shone from a leadership perspective, but the self-confessed “student of the game” possesses elite foot skills and intercept marking, making him one of the most talented tall defenders in this season’s draft pool.
“On the whole I was really happy with my year and don’t think I could have done too much more.
“I feel I played a bit of an unselfish role as a deep defender when it would have been easy to try and get up the ground and get a few touches. I just tried to stick to what the team needed.
“I am really proud of the way I played my footy this year, it was really team orientated and I’m glad I got a bit of individual recognition as well.”
Anderson says being drafted would “mean the world” to him and that he “can’t remember a day where [he] hasn’t thought about getting drafted”.
“It’s something that I’ve dreamt of since I was a kid.
“I’ll be sitting with my fingers crossed on the night, it would be the best day of my life.
“I feel like I would really thrive in an AFL environment, I’d love the professionalism, I love working hard and I feel like I’d grow so much if I was given the chance.
“It would be a dream come true; words couldn’t really describe it if it were to happen.