This kid was playing against 30-year-olds when he was 16. Now he has the AFL in sight

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Colby McKercher is not a name you will see among the fastest sprinters or highest leapers in this year’s AFL draft.

But McKercher is a footballer – mind, body and soul. The Tasmanian native was born into a football family and since first playing as a five-year-old has loved nothing more than chasing the Sherrin around the ground.

Colby McKercher is Tasmania’s leading AFL draft prospect this year.Credit: AFL Photos

That love extends to the craft of becoming an elite footballer, and it is further shown by the way he plays the game. He has the toughness to win the contested ball but also the dare to run down the outside and use his penetrating left boot to send his side into attack.

Plus, he has a knack for kicking goals. He booted one in almost every game for Tasmania this year and has done so since he kicked two goals on his senior debut for Launceston as a 16-year-old.

That drive to be great has pushed McKercher to sit among this year’s best prospects, and it will be a shock if he lasts beyond pick five.

He’s been strongly linked to joining North Melbourne, who have picks two and three, while Hawthorn would also give him a close look if he made it through to them at the next selection.

“I’ve always loved footy. I’ve never gone away from it and always wanted to play AFL footy,” McKercher said.

“I’ve played a lot of other sports but never had the same passion that I have for footy. That’s why I work so hard because I’ve dreamt of this since I was five years old.”

As he chatted to this masthead at the MCG during the draft combine, he looked over the empty stadium, and you could see his mind already flashing forward to round one next season.

The Tassie kid who grew up loving AFL is ready to make the game’s biggest arena his own.

“It’s pretty intimidating, but I can’t wait to be out there one day,” McKercher said, surveying the people’s ground.

Last year, McKercher showed promise as a bottom-age player. He focused on his training over the summer and on being a consistent performer for Tassie Devils and the Allies this year. He has dominated, averaging 33 disposals and finishing second in the Larke Medal as the Allies won the under-18 national titles. He was also co-winner of this year’s Morrish Medal, with the Geelong Falcons’ Patrick Hughes, as best play in the under-18s competition.

“We made a bit of history, winning our four games,” McKercher said.

“Usually, the Allies take two or three games to get gelled together but after the WA game, we stamped our authority on the championship and showed we were serious about winning the whole thing.

“We beat Vic Metro, and it got a bit real that we were going into the final game having to win the game to win the title. I enjoyed it; it was a such a good opportunity to perform well. I loved the competition and really enjoyed that last game.”

Even before draft night arrives, some were questioning if McKercher and other Tasmanian hopefuls were going to be completely committed to their new clubs, given the AFL’s Tasmanian team is pencilled in for entry to the league in 2028, even if the political battle around the building of a costly new stadium could slow that down.

McKercher is proud of his upbringing and heritage but is ready to chase his footy dreams on the mainland and wherever the draft sends him, although, at present, he looks likely to end up at a Melbourne club.

“A lot of people say that, but I’m not worried about the Tassie team at all,” McKercher said.

Tasmanian midfielder Colby McKercher.Credit: Getty Images

“I’ve had no thought of playing for them as I’m so ready to have a move. I’ve been in Tassie all my life, it was great growing up there, but I’m ready to move on, start a new chapter in my life and try to achieve things over here.”

McKercher knows his home state is ready for its own AFL side, and will happily face them as a rival should that time come.

“It will be pretty hectic down there,” he said with a smile. “We have a lot of passionate supporters, passionate footy people. Wherever I go will be my new home and Tassie will be the rival on that day – it will be an interesting one but will be good.”

McKercher’s peers can see his class and ball-winning skills, including fellow draft candidate Archie Roberts.

“He’s always got so much time,” Roberts told AFL trade radio in October.

McKercher credits his grandfather Alan and his dad Darren for nurturing his love of footy.

“They were both local players,” McKercher said. “Pop played for the Australian amateurs back in the day but both of them love the game and love supporting me.”

McKercher also praised his mother Nicole for keeping him from becoming too focused on the ups and downs of footy during his draft year.

“My mum has been a really good one on this; she’s really supportive of my football but at the same time her focus really isn’t on that,” he said.

“It’s more on me as a person. She’s really down to earth and doesn’t really let anything get to my head. She always reassures me that I’m doing well, even if I have a bad game or something, and it’s not just on the footy side.

“She makes sure I’m not feeling the pressure of everything and the rest of things are going well in my life, like school and that kind of stuff.”

McKercher made his senior debut for Launceston in the Tasmania Football League as a 16-year-old, kicking two classy goals.

“You learn a lot playing against men, and I took a lot out of that season as I played a few games that year and a few the year after,” McKercher said.

“It progresses you quickly. You get a bit of a reality shock when you get hit by a 30-year-old bloke. I enjoyed that time a lot.

“I took a lot of confidence out of my whole first season. I knew I could match it with the best Tassie had to offer.”

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