PART 3Friday, July 25 – IN TWO hours, Jarrod Pickett will meet with Richmond's recruiters for an interview at the Mercure Hotel in Perth. On Wednesday, Melbourne officials visited him for the second time this year.
Two weeks ago, he caught up with Greater Western Sydney's list manager Stephen Silvagni, coach Leon Cameron and welfare manager Craig Lambert, talking about what would happen if he moved to the Giants, where he would live and how it would all work.
Next week, he has interviews booked with the Western Bulldogs, Carlton and Hawthorn.
With the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships finishing three weeks ago, this is the point of the season when most clubs organise home interviews. But Pickett is finding they have more questions than he might have hoped.
Pickett played all six games of Western Australia's carnival, this year in a home-and-away format that ended with back-to-back games in Melbourne.
In round one, against South Australia at AAMI Stadium, he gathered 15 touches and kicked a goal, but was crunched in a marking contest in the second term. A kick was lobbed his way and Pickett thought he was clear, but an opponent ran through him and spoiled the mark. He came off, had a concussion test and cleared it, and although dazed for the second half, managed to finish the game.
"I spoke to Mick Ablett (the AFL's Academies development manager) after the game and he said a lot of recruiters had a question mark over whether I could take a big hit and get back in the game," Pickett says.
"I'd never known that. But when I came back on in the second half I made an impact, and he said that was good."
After losing to South Australia, Western Australia was thrashed by Vic Metro in round two. Pickett spent most of the game in the forward pocket, out of the play, as Metro won by 87 points.
Western Australia had 29 inside-50s to Metro's 52 and Pickett kicked one of his side's two goals. At times he tried to push up the field to give his side some run out of defence, but that didn't really work either.
'I'm going to have a big game this week'At training two days later, Raff Guadagnino, the state's talent manager, was talking with Pickett's father Lance, who had driven Pickett there and was watching on.
Guadagnino told Lance they would probably rest Pickett for the round three return game against South Australia, but Lance suggested his son should be in the midfield. "Play him this week. I think he's going to have a big game," Lance said.
Two days later, Guadagnino spoke with Pickett, telling him if he didn't play well against South Australia, he would not play against Vic Country in round four.
"I had given them an excuse to drop me, but it gave me the push to play well. I thought I was going to have a good game no matter what. I was going to do everything I could to play well and get myself into it," Pickett says.
The day before the game, Ablett sent him a text message telling him he knew what he was capable of. "I'm going to have a big game this week," Pickett replied.
He played what recruiters described as one of the most brilliant under-18 performances seen. He won his first clearance, helped set up the first goal and dominated the first quarter.
He finished with 22 disposals, five clearances, seven inside-50s and three breathtaking goals in the five-point loss.
"It was an electrifying display," says Kevin Sheehan, the AFL's national talent manager.
WATCH: Jarrod Pickett's electric NAB AFL Under-18 highlights
Pickett was happy with his game, and wondered how it would be if he played like that every week.
"It'd be pretty hard for other teams to stop me," he says.
But others wanted more. Before the carnival, the team agreed on three values they wanted to play by: be willing, passionate and committed.
The coaches asked the team if they thought Pickett – or 'Picketty', as they call him – should have been given a tick for meeting those standards in his breakout game. The players said yes. The coaches disagreed, saying he needed to work on his team acts.
Western Australia lost its next two games, to Vic Country and Vic Metro, and Pickett was quiet. Heading into the final round, the side had lost five straight games.
Jarrod Pickett gets a handball away despite the close attentions of Vic Metro's Damien Cavka. Picture: AFL Media
Coach Michael Pratt moved Pickett to half-back to generate some run, but Pickett didn't care how he played, as long as they won. That he played well, and gathered 15 disposals, was a bonus.
The main thing was Western Australia got over the line by two points, after trailing by 31 near half-time.
'It's about staying relevant'At times through the carnival Pickett was frustrated about how he was used and why he didn't spend more time in the midfield. But the last game taught him that maybe he had spent too much time worrying about that.
He's noticed he plays better when he chases, tackles and shepherds more. "I need to be more consistent. It's about staying relevant, and staying in the game no matter what," he says.
"Coaches want to see me being consistent in my defence. They see me defending and I'm really good at it, but then they see me not defend at all. I'm just not there.
"It's just work rate. I notice when I'm having really good games, I'm really good defensively. That's one of my goals for the rest of the year."
The rest of the year will be spent at South Fremantle. He has been upgraded to the club's reserves side and will likely play some senior games at the end of the season.
The draft is edging closer, and that hasn't escaped Pickett's attention. Some clubs see him as a very early selection, and might use a top-five pick on him. Others think he has the talent to be a top-10 selection, but wonder about his inconsistency.
Looking eastIn Pickett's bedroom, 14 footy jumpers are on clothes hangers on the wall. There's his junior club jumper, the ones from his representative teams, and the AIS-AFL Academy Australian shirt. His most prized is a West Coast jumper, signed by former captain Chris Judd. Pickett is an Eagles supporter, and has a footy signed by the 2006 premiership team. But he would prefer leaving Western Australia to pursue an AFL career.
"I'm looking forward, if I get the chance, to move out of Western Australia. I'd like to do that. Not live a different life, but have a change, you know?" he says.
"I'd like to get out of my comfort zone. I'd be fine. I could fly Mum and Dad over four or five times a year and they could come other times as well. They are probably going to move to wherever I go, if I get drafted interstate, midway through next year anyway, so it's not long," he says.
"I know a player at most clubs already. I'm pretty easy to get along with, I talk to anyone, and I think I'd be fine once I get into the system, get used to the team, and then get stuck into a pre-season."
'I'll prove them wrong'He's heard people question how he'd go in a new environment. Earlier this year, Dayle Garlett quit Hawthorn after struggling with the demands of an AFL club. And Pickett's close friend, Josh Simpson, hasn't managed to come to terms with the lifestyle required of an elite footballer in his two seasons at Fremantle.
Simpson lived with the Picketts during his draft year in 2012, after calling Lance and asking if he could move in. They got on well, and Simpson used to drive Pickett to South Fremantle training.
Pickett has always been proud of his background. In 2010, when he was 14, he and his brother were in the Kulbardi Boorndoon dance group, which travelled to China to teach people about their culture, including boomerang demonstrations, rock art and stone activities. It's stereotypes that grate.
Even at training a few weeks ago, in the pouring rain, it was noted Pickett was the only Indigenous player out there still doing the drills.
"In the past, Indigenous boys have been known to drop out and fall behind and stuff like that," he says.
"Nothing affects me. I'll do fine in the AFL and I'll show everyone that all Indigenous players aren't the same. Some people, they talk about you without even knowing you or knowing about you. They just assume. 'Picketty might be this' or 'He might get homesick'.
"I don't think I will. I'll be a good pick for whichever club picks me. And the clubs that didn't pick me, thinking I might have been one of those boys, I'll prove them wrong."
Read part 1 – Get set. Go!
Part 2 – 'If I don't get drafted, it's a waste'
NEXT: Part 4 – Can you spell 'Gatorade' backwards?