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Vic Country forward called into AIS-AFL squad

Young gun worth the wait Forward Patrick McCartin is a likely top pick in the 2014 national draft
Patrick McCartin of Vic Country poses during a NAB AFL under 18 championships portrait session at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne on July 02, 2013. (Photo: Justine Walker/AFL Media)
Patrick McCartin is taking great strides in the hope of being drafted next year
I proved to myself and a few others I did have what it takes to play that level. Hopefully that can lead to a few better things next year as well
Patrick McCartin
PATRICK McCartin wanted to show what he had. He thought his first game was a little off, his second a bit better, and his third a bit better again.
 
By the strong-marking Vic Country forward's fourth game of the recent NAB AFL Under-18 Championships, McCartin was ready to give even more, to convince himself as much as anyone he belonged.
 
"The first three games had made me think that I was maybe thereabouts, but I wasn't too sure," McCartin, 192cm, 90kg, told AFL.com.au.
 
Round four was played at Simonds Stadium, close to where he plays his footy for the Geelong Falcons in the TAC Cup, and where he goes to school at Geelong Grammar.
 
He had friends and family in the crowd, and could hear a few of them throughout the game. They had a bit to cheer.


McCartin, not eligible for the draft until next year, kicked five goals for Vic Country, and was his side's best player. He led hard, ran at the ball, grabbed his marks, and converted his shots.
 
Recruiters had already noticed a lot to like about McCartin before the game: he had a presence close to goal, crashed packs, and was comfortable throwing himself at the ball in the air and on the ground.
 
His showing against Western Australia reaffirmed their view, and made him feel more confident about how he was placed, too.
 
"I went out with a really positive attitude towards the whole thing and thought I'd just enjoy it, being in Geelong," McCartin said.
 
"I think that helped me a lot. I proved to myself and a few others I did have what it takes to play that level. Hopefully that can lead to a few better things next year as well."
 
It already has. McCartin was last week informed he had been added to the level two AIS-AFL Academy squad, viewed as the best group of 31 teenagers ahead of next year's draft.
 
He will take part in several camps under the tutelage of former AFL champions like Michael O'Loughlin and Matthew Lloyd, and head on an overseas tour to Europe next year.
 
"It's a pretty big privilege. Not a lot of kids get the opportunity so I'll try to grab it with both hands," the 17-year-old said.
 
"The other night I got the call that I was in the squad and I was in shock a little bit. It should be a really good opportunity."
 
The timing could not be better, either.
 
McCartin kicked seven goals for the Falcons at the weekend in their four-point win over the Bendigo Pioneers. It was only his fifth game of the season for the side, between Vic Country and school commitments.
 
He took 13 marks, which pushed his average to almost nine an outing at TAC Cup level.
 
It is the feature of McCartin's game which everything else works off, but marking cleanly has been a work in progress since the pre-season, his first proper chance at getting fit, and working on his game.
 
"I was talking to a few of the coaches and a lot of the time I was running and jumping at the ball and double grabbing. I wasn't backing my hands for that one-take mark," he said.
 
"And they said when you go up to higher levels if you double grab, on that second grab the defenders will just punch the ball away. That message really got through to me. Repeating the process over and over helped me get it right."
 
While McCartin is ready for the challenges of his draft year, he is also prepared for the questions which will come off the field about being a type-one diabetic.
 
McCartin was diagnosed when he was eight, after losing eight or nine kilograms in two weeks, going to the toilet often, drinking excessive amounts of water, and just not feeling right. Since, he has injected himself five or six times a day with insulin.
 
During the carnival he sometimes ran to the bench to check his blood levels, and did before and after matches, and during training.
 
Confused looks from teammates came his way early on, but they grew to accept it and so has McCartin. He knows people will ask about it next year, as clubs work out where he sits in the draft pool, but also knows it is not a hindrance.
 
If anything, McCartin thinks it has taught him a few things about being a professional, and hopes it has given him an advantage over others his age.
 
"It's not something I'm really worried about talking about. It's just become another part of me. A lot of people have different issues they deal with every day and I think this is just one for me. I'm happy to explain to anyone what it's about," he said.
 
"I think it's something that has helped me in a lot of ways with my footy. A lot of my diet has become better and I have to watch it carefully. Every day I have to deal with carbohydrates and those sorts of things, and I think it definitely helps me in preparation and day-to-day life.
 
"You see kids coming into the Falcons, and I've seen it this year a lot, who aren't as serious with that stuff as maybe they could be.
 
"Maybe I've been a bit lucky that I can see at an early age first-hand what having a good diet can do and the things it can help you with.
 
"It's been a real positive out of it that I can get an upper hand on some of the things that other kids, who haven't been through the same stuff as I have, wouldn't know yet."
 
Callum Twomey is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow him on Twitter @AFL_CalTwomey.
 
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs