Sandringham defender Luke Cleary is a Supercoach ‘nuffie’.
In the absence of footy last year, his following of the AFL – and time spent crafting his fantasy team – grew, keeping a particularly close eye on Tom Stewart and Nick Haynes.
As he sees it, effective kicking would significantly enhance his score if the NAB League had a Supercoach competition.
Cleary has shown a willingness to attack with the footy in his four matches for Sandringham this year, and his execution has been notable.
After playing much of his junior footy at Beaumaris as a midfielder and forward, he has excelled since arriving at the Dragons in 2019 as a high halfback.
With that in mind, a reliable kick was identified as a necessity ahead of 2020.
He spent time last year honing his kicking craft at Trevor Barker Oval with coach Jackson Kornberg, which has given him the confidence this year to take more risks with ball in hand.
“As a bottom ager, [my kicking] was probably a criticism but now it’s something I’d consider a strength,” Cleary said.
“A big focus has been trying to be cleaner with the ball and cut out silly mistakes and I feel like I’ve done that.
“I’d catch up with Jacko once a week during lockdown, sometimes more, just to work on my kicking and I feel like that has helped a lot.”
As a Haileybury boy, Cleary naturally gravitated towards schoolmates Josh Worrell, Hugo Ralphsmith and then-captain Ryan Byrnes, all of whom were who were drafted at the end of 2019, who made him feel welcomed when he joined the Dragons.
Now, as a co-vice-captain of the Dragons, he is returning the favour by building relationships with teammates, crediting a part-time coaching role with Haileybury’s year nines to further developing his leadership.
“I really enjoy teaching them and it’s helped me improve speaking to a group and as a leader here.
“It’s been good because I’m a lot more comfortable talking to a group about footy.
“I’ve become more vocal this year and my training standards and intensity have improved as well, and I feeling more confident around the group.”
Two weeks ago, Cleary played in the Under 23 Colgate Young Guns Game, where he showcased his kicking and body positioning in marking contests as he seeks to improve his intercepting ability.
“I was happy overall with how I played,” he said.
“The kicking and being clean, mostly I managed to do. I didn’t have much of the ball, but it was a good opportunity to play with the best players that are my age.”
“A strength of mine now is my ability to read the ball and my positioning. Watching AFL players like Nick Haynes, Tom Stewart who are elite at it has helped.”
That time spent analysing Haynes and Stewart is paying dividends, having shown significant improvement in his physicality, along with his ability to hit targets.