IN COLBY McKercher's preparation for his AFL career, there have been the countless days of training, the extra skills sessions, the weights room and gym, the late nights of touch perfecting his elite kicking.
But the Tasmanian talent, who shapes as a top-five pick at November's AFL Draft, is also getting ready for the off-field shift that will come with being selected by an AFL club and moving out of home: he's been finetuning his cooking skills ahead of time.
"I love making a carbonara and that's typically pre-game but any sort of stir fry I really enjoy doing, maybe a butter chicken as well. I cook a lot of things and I don't always nail it but I'm trying to get better. It's one of my big passions," he told AFL.com.au's Gettable.
"I like to tell clubs I'm really into cooking. I get it from my mum and I'm learning as I go. I've been doing it for a while and I'm getting handier and handier at it."
McKercher has found the recipe for a successful draft season this year, rocketing into contention to be one of the first handful of players selected. The left-footed midfielder dominated for the Allies during their under-18 championships win, averaging 33 disposals and finishing second in the Larke Medal. He has been equally damaging for the Tasmania Devils in the Coates Talent League, averaging 29 disposals and more than a goal a game in a dominant campaign.
His season ended on Sunday, when Tasmania was defeated by the Eastern Ranges in the preliminary final, but McKercher had 20 disposals and kicked the opening goal after missing several weeks with a broken bone in his foot.
After putting his name on the map last year as a bottom-ager, McKercher said he was "super happy" with his progress.
"The Allies was something pretty special and I'm really proud of what we've got to achieve there and with the Devils as well," he said.
"One thing I didn't quite nail last year was consistency and I felt as if I've done that really well this year going in with the same preparation and mindset each week and trying to perform as my best.
"I love coming up against other top players – any day someone can get the better of someone – but if you're around the same spot then let's battle it out and have a really good competition. I'm super competitive playing big-time games and playing against big players."
McKercher studies the likes of Connor Rozee, Zak Butters, Chad Warner and Errol Gulden as midfielders with their inside and outside blend, with his turn of speed and agility also making him a player with multiple weapons.
The Launceston product said growing up smaller had given him a few tricks to play with now.
"I was actually a really small kid. That's probably where I get my speed and agility from. I was always playing with older people so I had to run around them and not try to get touched otherwise they'd slam me to the ground. In year nine I started growing a little bit more. I always thought I'd be super small but I started to hit a growth spurt which was good," he said.
Earlier this season the League granted Tasmania a licence for the 19th AFL club, which came after a long process. McKercher is comfortable moving away and doesn't believe the club that drafts him needs to worry about a go-home factor down the track, but has seen the excitement build for a Tasmanian team.
"It's super exciting because we have so many passionate people around and there's a lot of talk that's going on about the Tassie team," he said. "So many people are super excited so it's good for the state."
McKercher trained at Collingwood earlier this year as part of the AFL Academy program, but grew up a Carlton fan – "My hero was Chris Judd. That's pretty much why I went for Carlton, I just loved him". The top of the draft faces some movement in the Trade Period, so McKercher will wait before getting too attached to where his future could lie.
"Whatever I'm thinking about is not going to change the result at the end of the day. So many things can change, trades can happen, so my worrying about where I am going to go or end up is not going to change a thing. I look at it as just trying to get better every day and prepare myself to get to any AFL club," he said.