ARCHIE Roberts has developed as both a player and person in leaps and bounds this year, and has leadership in spades.
“I really set out to try and be a leader this season,” said Roberts.
“I think I took my leadership to another level this year, I knew I could get people to follow me if I was doing the right thing.
“I pride myself on being professional and setting the standards for my teammates.
“I just kept growing, I’ve always had natural leader instincts, but I really wanted to lead from the front.”
Sandringham Dragons head coach Rob Harding believes that Roberts’ leadership ability played a pivotal role in the Dragons push to win the premiership.
“The side I really loved of Archie at the end of the year was that he took real ownership of our backs group,” said Harding.
“His leadership went to another level late; he really drove that connection throughout our finals series.
“He was able to peak himself at the right time of the year, the back end of his Championships was really strong, and his finals campaign was fantastic.”
Roberts was fortunate enough to be selected in the AFL Academy this season, but also spent time playing for Vic Metro in the National Championships and Haileybury in the APS football competition.
“The experiences you get are unbelievable, you’re versing AFL-listed players, it’s pretty cool what you get to do,” said Roberts.
“It was one of my goals that I set out to make those squads, to be a part of them was so special to me, I’m so grateful that I got a chance to take that opportunity.
“Any kid who is lucky enough to get selected in the Academy, it only betters you as a footballer and as a person, I speak so highly of that program and the people you get exposed to.”
The hard-working running half back credits Essendon legend Matthew Lloyd and Pies champion Scott Pendlebury as two figures who have played a key part in his development both on and off the field.
Lloyd is the head coach of the Haileybury firsts, whilst Pendlebury is the midfield coach.
“They’ve been great at helping me get bad habits out of my game and good habits into my game, fixing up the little things.
“Lloydy was pretty keen on me showcasing my different strengths and attributes as a footballer, which I’m so grateful for.
“Knowing that recruiters know I can play a variety of positions and have seen me do that, helps my confidence a lot.”
The Hampton Rovers junior is extremely grateful for the guidance that the two champions of the game have given him throughout his footy career.
“They’ve been great at helping me get the best out of myself.
“I’ve been so lucky to have those two to guide me this season, I’ve built a great connection with them.”
Roberts caught up with Pendlebury after the 383-game veteran became a dual-premiership player last month, which he says is a credit to his genuine commitment to the Haileybury program and people.
“They’re both so invested, Lloydy in particular can’t stop thinking about it.
“Lloydy rang Pendles about 12 times in our grand final week, asking ‘what happens if this happens, what do we do if they do that’.
“They’ve been pushing me to be the best player I can be, helping guide me with nutrition and preparation off the field as well.
“If I do get an opportunity to enter an AFL environment, I know how to hold myself and present myself to other people.
“If I do get the chance to be on an AFL list, I’m ready.”
Whilst Roberts has always been a highly touted junior, he hasn’t always had it easy.
The two-time Dragons premiership player suffered a foot fracture early on in 2022 which threatened to derail his underage year.
“It was my first proper injury; I didn’t really know what to think of it at the time.
“I remember the pain was pretty sharp, I was going to waking up some mornings and could barely walk on it.
“I didn’t think much of it, thought I could get through the next game, and it would just go away.”
The pain didn’t go away though and Roberts was forced into spending a significant period of time watching on from the sidelines.
“It didn’t go away, initially we thought it was a stress reaction, but it was actually a fracture.
“It was pretty hard watching the boys, I wanted to be a part of it so bad with all my best mates.
“It was a tough time, I think I handled it really well though, I had great people around me to support me.
“I learned so much from it though, I’m doing more things to help better myself.
“My preparation definitely improved which was the positive out of it and I’m glad it happened last year and not this year.
“After games I was feeling horrible last year but now, I’m feeling fine after games.”
Roberts used the time off to spend more time focusing on his studies and is extremely grateful of the support that Haileybury showed him.
“School wrapped their arms around me a lot, they knew the pain I was going through.
“I remember Lloydy called me during an ad break on one of his media shows, those little things just show how incredibly invested they are in the program.
“Any way I could get involved, I was doing it, I was enjoying helping out, it got to the point where I accepted the injury and did everything I could to help out my teammates.”
Roberts returned in round 16 and played the final six games of the season which culminated in his first footy flag, which he says was “really special”.
“It was my first footy flag ever; it was so good after the game to have some of my best mates and family on the ground.
“I grew up a Carlton supporter so playing a night game at Ikon Park was cool too.
“I love the lead up to a grand final, the week is pretty similar to draft week, you can’t stop thinking about it.”
Roberts enjoyed being able to attack his 2023 season injury-free which saw him average 21 disposals and four rebound 50s a game as he became one of the most damaging half-backs of this season’s draft crop.
He says the feeling of going back-to-back was “awesome”.
“We knew what we were capable of and what we had to do.
After suffering two consecutive defeats in the lead up to the finals series, the Dragons leadership group called a meeting, where the coaches put the onus on them to lead from the front.
“It was a pretty stern chat, they asked a bit of us, and we stood up to it, we became the best team we’d been all year.”
The team were able to turn their form around, putting together an impressive finals campaign that saw them win their four finals by an average margin of just over 45 points.
“It was a big relief to win the flag, I knew how hard we’d worked and where we’d got to.”
Roberts says the days are going by “pretty slowly” now that the season has finished, as he edges closer to hopefully realising his AFL dream.
“It would be pretty special to hear my name called out.
“I remember sitting on the couch and watching last year, I couldn’t wait for it to be me and my time.
“It’s gone so quickly since then, from where I was then to where I am now, I’ve grown so much as a player and as a person.”
Roberts says his parents, Ash and Leanne have played a pivotal role in helping him get to where he is now.
“My parents have been massive for me, they’re big believers in self-confidence and give me the confidence I need to go out there and do my thing every week.
“It would mean so much to my family, we’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time.
“It would be a massive honour and mean so much to me and my family if I did get the opportunity to be on an AFL list.”