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Meet Ned McHenry: The draft prospect who goes for casual 30km runs

Cal Twomey's top-30 draft prospects The draft expert delivers his verdict on this year's talent pool

NED McHENRY went for a run this week, which is not an unusual practice for a draft prospect less than 10 days away finding out where he will start his AFL career.

Except this run went for 30km. He left his house in Geelong, headed for nearby suburb Highton and ended up at Barwon Heads on a warm Tuesday night.

"It probably was a bit of a weird thing to do," the Geelong Falcon told AFL.com.au.

"I go for a long run occasionally and I don't take any headphones, I just run. There were stages when I was thinking 'I could stop now, the road is pretty busy' but I didn't really want to stop."

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Running underpins McHenry's nature as a footballer: he's a relentless prospect with a work ethic almost unmatched in this year's draft pool.

He won the Yo-Yo test at last month's NAB AFL Draft Combine (the endurance test that replaced the beep) and came sixth in the 2km time trial. 

It's partly why some clubs, including Richmond, Adelaide and Melbourne, are considering taking the 178cm McHenry with top-25 picks when names are called at Marvel Stadium on Thursday night and Friday.

He's a tenacious tackler who can play forward, add pressure and create, and he can also move through the midfield and work up and down the ground. Which takes us back to the running.

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McHenry wasn't always a dominant runner.

Growing up in Macedon before moving to Geelong in grade six. He spent years seven and eight at Geelong College, before his mum Sam decided it was a good idea for him to cross schools and spend year nine at Geelong Grammar's Mount Timbertop campus three hours out of Geelong. 

Timbertop is a full-time boarding campus of the school where the full year level is isolated from family and friends in a bid to improve independence, with a wide outdoors curriculum. It was also where McHenry's running strength came alive.

"It was a crazy year. Footy was big to me so not being able to play that year was something I missed. But reflecting on it, Timbertop was amazing," he said.

Some of the challenges we had to face, like waking up really early and going hiking for six days with everything we needed on our backs, was huge.

"We did a lot of running and at the start you think 'How am I going to get through this?' but everyone finds a way. They do a marathon that's about 30km at the end of the year, which you build up to, and I remember coming up that last hill and knowing it was the last time I'd do it. That's when I understood why it was all worth it."

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McHenry won that marathon, by the way.

He became obsessed with his running, and was keen to follow a mentor at Geelong Grammar, Ross Hopkins, into completing a 100km surf coast run. Footy got in the way, though, as his Falcons pre-seasons started to take shape.  

McHenry with his trophy for best performance in the YoYo test. Picture: AFL Photos

McHenry went back to Geelong College in year 10, where he has completed his schooling this year, but his running capacity continued to grow. The competitive 18-year-old sees it now as one of his major weapons as a player, knowing he can outwork whoever he's on. He also enjoys the freedom a run brings.

"Sometimes I run to clear my mind and sometimes I run to get my mind busy. I think about everything when I'm out there. I think about some weird stuff. I've got a list on my phone and a hard copy diary of ideas I have, so I might come across them when I'm running and then jot it down," he said.

"I have all kinds of things – ideas for businesses, ideas for inventions, ideas for things I want to do in my life, ideas for my coffee table I want to have when I'm older. I've got a massive list."

The coffee table, for what it's worth, would be see-through and would allow McHenry to see plants and cactus' grow inside it. "I reckon that'd be epic," he said.

He has other ideas. "Also, when I'm older, I once a fortnight want to have someone random over for dinner. It might be like a Thursday every second week, it might be someone I've met down at the newsagents," McHenry said. 

"Don't you think that'd be epic? Doing that once a fortnight when you meet someone new in your life. You'd learn cooking with it. It'd be cool."

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McHenry is an energetic, on-the-go personality. He's inquisitive and chatty, interested and interesting. He loves to get out on his boat and go fishing and next year is hoping to study a media course. Clubs enjoy his enthusiasm and natural spark, and have seen the impact he has on teammates.

"I've always enjoyed my footy and my personality's come out through that. Everyone's a little bit different. I've always been the more bubbly and positive person," he said.

"I don't know if [clubs] enjoy it. They probably hate it. I really just do try to be myself in interviews. I definitely just try to present as myself and that's just who I am. I don't try to be upbeat every morning, but usually I am excited about it all."

He has reason to be excited at the moment. He recently got a call from the AFL's national talent ambassador Kevin Sheehan asking him to attend the draft next week, and he can't help but wonder about what it would be like to hear his name called by an AFL club.  

"I haven't necessarily been the most talented kid as a junior or even this year, but my intensity with my training and energy on and off the field is something I've really tried to bring," he said. 

"I had a laugh to 'Shifter' when he was on the phone and he invited me to the draft and he said, 'Who would have thought this two years ago?' And I reckon it's true, in a way. I think I've earned this position to give myself a go."