WHEN Finlay Macrae spent a week in December training with the Western Bulldogs, there was little he asked of his older brother, premiership midfielder Jack.
"He gave me a lift to and from the club, but that was about it," said the younger Macrae, who is eligible for this year's NAB AFL Draft. "That was all I wanted."
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Macrae, 17, was keen to learn as much as he could from his week at the Dogs as part of the NAB AFL Academy's program, but was intent to do it his own way, and not just as the younger sibling of the star ball-winner and All Australian.
"The Dogs let us train in most of their drills, so we were pretty lucky. There's a lot of work behind the scenes that I got to see that people wouldn't be lucky enough to," he said.
He watched Josh Dunkley on the track, and was impressed by Easton Wood and Alex Keath on the sidelines as they attacked their rehabilitation programs. In one drill, he went head-to-head with new Dogs skipper and superstar Marcus Bontempelli.
"We did a little midfield craft session and I was lucky enough to go with him. I reckon he won five-nil, but it was a good experience," Macrae said.
Macrae is hoping to spend more time in the midfield this year, after playing largely as a creative half-forward last season in the Oakleigh Chargers' NAB League premiership team.
As a bottom-ager, the 181cm talent was excellent in the Chargers' run to the premiership, picking up 20 disposals in the Grand Final victory over the Eastern Ranges.
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That followed 22 possessions and a goal in their preliminary final win over the Sandringham Dragons, plus some standout showings in the under-17s 'Futures' games throughout the year.
He is spending this week training with Vic Metro's talent hub, with 30 of the region's best prospects (spread across the 2020 and 2021 drafts) partaking in a camp that includes sessions at Melbourne and the Bulldogs' headquarters.
Finlay first visited the Kennel as an 11-year-old with his family days after Jack was drafted. He carries some of his brother's idiosyncrasies – the running gait and slightly hunched shoulders – but can also find plenty of the ball, run all day and make quick, smart decisions. He kicks sharply on both feet and is dangerous around goal.
Playing in the Chargers' flag alongside the likes of No.1 and 2 picks Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson far exceeded his aims for the year, though.
"I didn't expect it. I had ambitions to play a couple of games, but to be on the winning team with Oakleigh was pretty special," he said.
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Macrae heads into his draft season already well credentialed but wanting to step things up in 2020, having gained more of an insight into the demands of an AFL career in the past few years.
"I probably didn't really understand the full extent of what it meant to get drafted when [Jack] was first picked up. But in more recent years I'm understanding what he's been able to do and in playing a fair few games, too," he said.
"I always had ambitions to be an AFL player. I wouldn't say it made me strive any harder to be one, but I definitely looked up to them a bit more [since Jack was picked]."