IN DENVER Grainger-Barras' senior WAFL debut last year, the then-17-year-old tackled an opponent, spun him around and in the process ripped out his own shoulder from its socket. "But I got him holding the ball so I was chuffed," he said.
That tackle – and subsequent injury – ended Grainger-Barras' very promising 2019 campaign, which established the West Australian key defender as a contender for the No.1 pick in the NAB AFL Draft this year.
FULL FIXTURE Every round, every game
Two weeks after playing that game for Swan Districts, Grainger-Barras underwent shoulder surgery. Only recently has he re-joined full training as he prepares for his draft season of 2020.
But recruiters are already aware of Grainger-Barras' qualities, having seen him dominate for his state at last year's NAB AFL Under-18 Championships. As a smart, strong-marking backman who reads the play well and can set up on a range of opponents, Grainger-Barras is ready to make an impact this year.
"I'm back on the track now fully unrestricted, and I'm into training now without having to worry about not doing certain drills. It's allowed me to get my game fitness up," Grainger-Barras told AFL.com.au.
That is a key focus for Grainger-Barras this season, as well as improving his endurance and nutrition off the field. Already there is a lot to like, which largely centres on the 193cm prospect's ability in the air.
LIST RATINGS Roos' shock rise, Dogs tipped to shine
"I've got a lot of developing still to go and I'm really looking forward to that, but my ability to read the footy and know when to impact and when to lock down is an attribute I've always had and always been developing," he said.
"If I can keep working on skill efficiency, and even bettering that skill and my endurance with it, I'll play the best I can."
Those traits were on show last year for Swan Districts' colts side, before he featured in the final two matches of WA's under-18 carnival.
After an impressive showing against the Allies, Grainger-Barras was kept in the side against Vic Country in the title-decider, when his job was to keep small forward Cody Weightman under wraps.
Weightman was a star throughout the championships on his way to being a top-15 pick for the Western Bulldogs last year, but Grainger-Barras took the eye in that contest. Some scouts thought the bottom-ager was the best player on the ground.
CAPTAINS SURVEY Four clubs snubbed for finals, Brownlow tips, more
"It was definitely something different to play on a smaller forward. We had quite a tall backline so I was surprised how intense he was, and he was a very, very hard player to play on," he said.
"I remember saying at the start of last year that I just wanted a taste of under-18s footy, and just training with the 18s squad and seeing the professionalism was a taste in itself. To play in those games was great."
Those performances led to a quick ascent to his club's League line-up, a selection that blindsided the teenager but one he came to grips with swiftly during the clash.
He even played on after the shoulder dislocation, before club medicos realised the seriousness of the incident afterwards.
Grainger-Barras, who graduated school last year, will have plenty of time to devote to football this season.
But in between working for McDonald's – "I make a good Big Mac, I'll be honest," he said – fixing up his four-wheel drive and playing guitar (his favourite singers include Eric Clapton, Phil Collins and Roy Orbison), he will also spend this year being one of the most highly touted youngsters in the land. It doesn't faze him.
"I try not to read into it too much. I'm just trying to develop my craft to be a better player for the teams I'm playing in this year," Grainger-Barras said.