PART 2Sunday, April 27, 2014 – JARROD Pickett could spot his mum and dad sitting in the stands. He always sees his dad on the sidelines back at South Fremantle, but this was different. It was about three weeks ago, and he was on the MCG, standing on the members' wing, ready to bolt into the centre square.
He was playing for the AIS-AFL Academy in its game against Collingwood's VFL side, but his mind was on even bigger things. He imagined standing in the same place, but in an AFL club's jumper, with a huge crowd watching. What would it look like? How would he feel? How would he handle it? Would it be loud? In a year, could he be in that position?
"When I was out there, I pictured myself being in an AFL game," Pickett says.
He quickly switched on, streamed into the square after the first bounce, picked the ball off the ground and found a tiny bit of space. He snuck through a handball and the ball was then kicked long to Paddy McCartin, who snapped the opening goal.
Going places: The diagnosis that threatened Paddy McCartin's AFL dream
Pickett finished with 14 disposals, a few bounces, a few fumbles and a few good moments, wishing they could have extended to be a few good quarters. You can watch his highlights from the game below.
Still, he was pleased, particularly with his second half after some advice from assistant coach, and runner, Chris Johnson.
"He came out to me and said 'Be composed'. If I had better decision-making in the first half I would have done better," he says.
The next night Pickett was on a plane to London, via Abu Dhabi, for the Academy's European tour. The group trained hard for a week in Wembley before playing against the European Legion, and then headed to Italy for more training.
It was done under the eyes of AFL club recruiters, with all bar three clubs sending scouts on the trip. They only interviewed the players once, formally, but were on hand for other parts in order to make their character assessments.
Jarrod Pickett hits the weights bench on tour in Italy. Picture: AFL Media
They sat with the players at breakfast, chatted with them in the lobby, at times jumped on the bus, and observed how they interacted with teammates.
Pickett spent a lot of his time with the three other Indigenous boys on the tour, fellow West Australians Clem Smith and Jermaine Miller-Lewis, and Northern Territory's Nakia Cockatoo. With them a lot was Jaden McGrath, a midfielder from Bendigo in Victoria, who they called "one of the brothers".
We're off to Wembley: Pickett (l) with fellow draft prospect Clem Smith. Picture: supplied
The first time Miller-Lewis and Pickett met on a football field as under-15s, they had a scuffle. After the game, Lance called both boys over and told them to avoid doing it again, as they might end up teammates in coming years.
On tour Miller-Lewis was injured, and has been for a while with shin problems. Taking up painting – and selling each piece for $1,500 – has kept his mind in a good place during his time on the sidelines.
Click here to check out Jermaine Miller-Lewis's draft profile and watch his 2014 highlights
A train runs behind Pickett's house, rattling as it goes past, and 10 minutes down the line it does the same behind Smith's place. Pickett had heard of Smith before they had met, and first saw him with long, curly hair, dominating under-16s games. They've become a tight and supportive group.
"On tour 'Clemmy' always came in to our room and made us laugh. All of us are pretty close now," Pickett says.
Click here to check out Clem Smith's draft profile and watch his 2014 highlights
'In my family they all want to be footy players'Recruiters noticed Pickett's warm and happy persona. "He's engaging," one scout said. "He comes and speaks to you, and asks you questions. He's very easy to like, and is always smiling."
Training on tour: Jarrod Pickett goes through his paces in Italy. Picture: AFL Media
Pickett finished year 12 last year at Melville Senior High School, and earlier this year started a certificate course in fitness. One day a week he goes to South Fremantle and does the course under the supervision of the club's development officer, in between working at a car wash, which is owned by former West Coast midfielder Daniel Kerr and Kerr's brother. He works there a few days each week and enjoys making some money while keeping his mind occupied on things other than footy.
Pickett saved up about $800 for the European tour and bought four pairs of shoes, clothes, and some presents for his family, including some adidas shoes for his three-year-old nephew Shane, one of sister Hannah's two young children. Much of what drives Pickett is his family, who have played a big part in his progression.
Jarrod Pickett with young nephew Shane. Picture: supplied
"I've got heaps of cousins, four or five the same age as me, and heaps of little ones as well. In my family they all want to be footy players and at the moment I'm the only one who's probably close enough to achieving that," Pickett says.
"If I make it they'll look up to me and think 'He's in the AFL'. If I get drafted I think it would be good for my family.
"Byron was the last Pickett who played in the AFL, and to be the next Pickett would be big for me. Just to get drafted would change a lot of things around my family.
"I'm doing it for people around me. If I didn't make it, a lot of people would be disappointed as well, because I've worked so hard up to this point. If I don't get drafted it's a waste."
But Pickett knows simply waiting for the draft is a trap. After returning home from Milan last weekend, he played his first game in a month for South Fremantle yesterday. It was a good one. He kicked four goals from 22 possessions, and laid three tackles.
Kinnear Beatson, the Sydney Swans' list manager, as well as Fremantle recruiters Brad Lloyd and David Walls, have told Pickett he should be pushing to move out of the colts' under-18 team and play in the senior side.
He will ask coach Paul Hasleby about it next week, but suspects he will need to wait until Western Australia's under-18 carnival is over before he gets a chance. That's in about a month.
Wherever he plays, he knows how he wants to be more defensive, more team-focused and better poised.
"When all the good players run they look like they're going slow but they're going fast," he says.
"They look like they've got time. I want to be one of those players. I want to get that in my game, have more composure, and choose the simple options."
Read part 1 – Get set. Go!
NEXT: Part 3 – 'They talk about you like they know you'