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Model prospect: Lachie Weller steps up on the footy ground and steps out for the cameras

Going Places: Lachie Weller Meet one of the classiest midfielders in this year's NAB AFL Draft
It's been a dream for so long. And now all of a sudden the year's here.
Lachie Weller
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PART 2

Tuesday, April 15 – LACHIE Weller sits in a quiet room down the hallway, past the laundry and before the kitchen. He's in Gavirate, a small town outside of Milan in northern Italy, with the AIS-AFL Academy on its two-week European tour.

While others play a game of pool after dinner, Weller is in a meeting with the AFL's academies development manager Michael Ablett and academy assistant coach Tadhg Kennelly.

It has been a good tour so far for Weller. He won the medal as the best player in last week's win over the European Legion, and has trained hard.

WATCH: Weller in action for the AIS-Academy against Collingwood's VFL team
But the coaches want to see – and hear – more from him. He lost his voice during the first week, which obviously made it hard for him to talk. But when he gets it back, the coaches are keen for him to do more directing.

As one of the better players in the squad, he works tirelessly, trains to the point of fatigue and does everything professionally. His skinfolds, at 32, are the lowest recorded on tour. The next part of his development is taking people along with him.

Weller (with ball) leaves the European Legion chasing shadows. Picture: AFL Media


"I have a lot of knowledge of the game and I can share that with my teammates, but I keep a lot of things to myself, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad. It's one thing I'm trying to get better at," he said.

"It takes confidence to give teammates feedback because sometimes you might think you're not actually right or they've been told to do something else you don't know about. But you have to know any feedback is good feedback. Also, if I were getting feedback from another player, I'd think it was good and helpful.

"But it does take confidence to go up to a teammate and say something, because they may take it badly. You understand you want to be respected and not liked, but at the end of the day you do want to be liked. It's a hard one."

Weller (second from right) with AIS-AFL Academy teammates in the Swiss Alps. Picture: AFL Media


Weller is part of the team's leadership group and captained the squad last year on the New Zealand trip. On that tour, he found it tough to know what to tell the best 30 players his age in Australia. What could he say?

This year presents a different task, and he's leading alongside Brad Walsh (captain), his close friend Hugh Goddard and the injured Jake Lever. But it isn't in his nature to be an extrovert.

Click here to check out Brad Walsh's draft profile
View Hugh Goddard's draft profile
Draft trumps: Meet gun prospect Jake Lever

He has been quiet for most of his life, watching and taking things in, then working out in his own time and mind the best way to advance. Footy occasionally demands a different approach, and recruiters have noticed he is happy to go along with the flow without disrupting it. He thinks some people have an impression of him that's not quite right.

"My teammates probably think I'm more confident than I actually am," he said.

"I think I've got quite a good balance in being relaxed about everything, and I am confident in my ability so I don't get too stressed about that. But it's more the self-confidence around other things that I need to develop."

'It was like an Auskick game'

His lack of confidence hasn't been obvious on the field. Weller's season started about six weeks ago, when he played his first practice game with the Suns' academy team. He hit the season in good health, despite ending his training stint at the Gold Coast unwell, after overdoing it.

He's still finding the balance between pushing himself – to perfection or to exhaustion. This season is already different to last for Weller, having switched NEAFL clubs over summer. Last year he played with Broadbeach, which was closer to home and where he was getting comfortable. But because of a rule change, he has transitioned with a group of teammates to the Southport Sharks, about a 30-minute drive from his house.

The first game he played with the senior team he felt he was getting to the right spots, but wasn't always used as an option through the midfield. But whenever he won the ball, he delivered it well, and made quick and correct decisions.

Aiming to play AFL in a developing region has also affected Weller, particularly given he came from Tasmania, where football at every level is devoured, and the state continues to lobby for its own AFL club.

"Being in Queensland, you definitely feel you're missing out on a bit. You hear so much about the TAC Cup and what it's like down in Victoria," he said. "Sometimes I wish I got to develop in that system."



When he arrived on the Gold Coast, and started at All Saints Anglican School, there was never a Sherrin kicked around at lunchtime. But they did have an Aussie Rules team, which Weller joined. Before each game, the players mouthed with all the same clichés, and prepared like a serious side.

Then they ran out onto a ground that was about 70 metres long, with plastic goal posts. "It was like an Auskick game," Weller said.

Through the Suns academy and Queensland's under-18 side, he found teenagers hoping for the same thing as him, but many of his closest mates from school don't really follow footy, apart from sending Weller a text when he's been written about in the media. "It might be why I have always worked hard at things by myself, and in my own way," he said. "I worked out early that I had to challenge myself at training."

After finishing school last year, he's started working for AFL Queensland, going out to schools and running clinics. Sometimes there are a few kids who have heard of Gary Ablett or Jonathan Brown, other times they have never seen a footy that shape. "The game's definitely grown since we got here," Weller says.

A model prospect

Recruiters have joined the tour, although Weller has already met most of them, and some have visited him at home for interviews.

Melbourne recruiters Jason Taylor and Tim Lamb were the first to go to Weller's place before his opening game of the season last month.

They had offered to take him for lunch at a nearby café, but Weller thought it would be a good chance for them to see his house, where and how he lived, and meet his parents. Jude organised the food and made a salad, and Weller cooked lamb cutlets on the barbeque, a job he always takes on at home. Melbourne stayed for a couple of hours.

"They loved it. I think I was sucking up a bit too much," he said.

"It's always interesting what they say about you. They saw me play a game the next day and I didn't go too well, so I called Jase and asked for some feedback. He was positive. I was playing a different role across half-back, and they said it was good to see."

He called for some reassurance, having stressed himself out before the game. Because he had trained with the Suns, and had moved down to play with the Suns' academy, he felt he had to dominate. He vomited before he ran onto the ground and got really, really nervous. "I put too much pressure on myself but it was a good lesson," he says.

On the morning of the interview with the Demons, Weller had been at his new part-time job as a model, a revelation that has attracted a few friendly jibes while on tour.

His girlfriend Nicola Hewitt, whom he met only a month after arriving on the Gold Coast, models for a company, and her sister works in the marketing side of the business.

Weller went for a trial and had photos taken in various sets of clothes to see how he looked, and got a job modelling for SurfStitch.com, the No. 1 online surf and fashion store in Australia. "They probably won't ever call me back, but it's good money and a bit of fun," he said.

Model draftee: Lachie Weller tries his hand at a new line of work. Pictures: supplied


It's not the only website he has been featured on recently. One night a few weeks ago he logged onto Facebook and had been tagged in a post about this year's draft, with a write-up on his form, his attributes and his family links to the top level.

His first reaction was, 'Has this started already?' But then it made him realise something. This was what he'd been waiting for, for a long time.

"It's always felt so far away that you never feel like it's actually going to come around. It's been a dream for so long. And now all of a sudden the year's here."

When he gets home next week he wants to continue working on his contested-ball winning, seeing it as the main area of improvement in his game.

On tour he has seen bigger midfielders Angus Brayshaw, Isaac Heeney and Walsh dominate in and around stoppages. Weller is at his best outside stoppages when using the ball. He wants to get up to 80kg, and thinks that – and a mindset tweak – would be enough to improve the contested side of his game.

Click here to check out Isaac Heeney's draft profile
Draft trumps: Meet gun prospect Angus Brayshaw

"There are a lot of midfielders who don't have both sides, and I'm always challenging myself to be better," he said.

Read part 1: Weller shadows the stars

NEXT: Part 3 - A nagging, tagging pain

Twitter: @AFL_CalTwomey