Bendigo Pioneers midfielder Jye Caldwell learnt some hard lessons about dealing with injury during his top-age TAC Cup season.
The 18-year-old Golden Square (Bendigo FL) product is hoping AFL clubs have seen enough of his talent ahead of the 2018 NAB AFL Draft on November 22-23 after a string of injuries played a part in restricting him to just three TAC Cup games this year.
184cm Caldwell’s toughness was on show in Bendigo’s Round 2 loss to the Murray Bushrangers when he recorded 26 disposals, seven tackles and a goal. However, he was sent to hospital a week later with bruising on a kidney following a collision in the AFL Academy’s clash with North Melbourne’s VFL team.
Caldwell was soon appointed Vic Country’s co-captain (alongside highly-rated Geelong Falcons draft prospect Sam Walsh) but injured his hamstring in the team’s first match of the AFL U18 Championships. He returned for the Pioneers late in the season but then suffered another hamstring injury in their Wildcard Round loss to the Bushrangers.
“I was feeling pretty shattered that I’ve missed most of my draft year and playing in the nationals,” Caldwell said at the recent AFL Draft Combine.
“I’m not glad, but I’m happy it happened this year because I knew how to deal with having injuries and being resilient. I thought I did that really well.
“When I did the first hamstring against the Allies, I was looking very sad on the bench. I remember getting my head knocked in and being told: ‘You can’t look sad on the bench because it brings everyone else down.’ From then I made sure I had a positive attitude about it.”
Caldwell was still able to help the Vic Country midfield group from the boundary for the rest of the U18 Championships, relishing the chance to work on his leadership skills.
The self-described “hard nut” was also aiming to improve his speed away from contests to complement his ability to win the ball in them, but hasn’t taken the field often enough to build the fitness required.
“I hope AFL clubs see how you come back from an injury and if you’re resilient or positive about it, but I’m not quite sure,” Caldwell said.
“I reckon I take a lot of care in my body now and what my body is like and what I need to do to look after my body.
“I’ve learnt that what you put in is what you get out and that doing the extras – your recovery, your rehab – is important. Your body is your tool; you have to look after it.”
THE AFL DRAFT WATCH ‘FAST FIVE’ with Jye Caldwell
Why should an AFL club draft you?
“I am pretty competitive. I like the quickness of AFL football and how tough it is.”
What is the funniest or weirdest question you’ve been asked by an AFL club?
“Probably by Collingwood; they asked if I was Steve Smith, how would I address the cricket team after the ball-tampering situation. I struggled a bit with that one.”
Who is your football idol?
“Joel Selwood (Geelong). I feel like I play like him a fair bit. He is a very good leader and I strive to be like him.”
Who will be selected with pick no.1 in the 2018 AFL Draft?
“Sam Walsh (Geelong Falcons). He gives everything his all. He trains very hard, he is good on the football field and is just a good person as well.”
Which of your 2018 teammates should also be in draft consideration?
“Hopefully Noah Wheeler. He works pretty hard, is vice-captain of the team and is a good bloke as well.”