BROUGHT TO YOU BYNAB

WHEN the soccer ball came out at the NAB AFL Academy's pre-game training session last month, potential top-10 draft choice Josh Rachele fancied himself to take control.

Only three years earlier, Rachele had been a member of the Australian under-17s soccer squad and had been offered a scholarship by Melbourne City.

Now, the crafty and talented small forward shapes as one of the leading Victorian prospects in this year's draft class: a player with pizazz, ability and some theatre.

But it wasn't always headed this way, with Rachele needing to make a choice between his two preferred codes.

"I played soccer up all my life up until when I was 15 and played in the Melbourne City youth squad. I got offered a scholarship contract to be with the A-League but I turned that down to go back to footy," he told AFL.com.au.

"I was in the Australian under-17s squad, I was in the initial squad but got cut from that because I was playing a year or two up."

Josh Rachele of the NAB AFL Academy in action during the match between the NAB AFL Academy and the Geelong Cats VFL side in April 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Rachele, product of the Murray Bushrangers in the NAB League, was travelling from Shepparton in country Victoria to La Trobe University in Bundoora to be a part of Melbourne City's program.

But it was factors outside of travel that saw Rachele turn his attention fully to his AFL aspirations.

"It was a two-and-a-half hour drive each way. I would have to leave from school at 1.30pm and get back at midnight and then wake up early and go to school again so that was pretty full on but I'm definitely thankful to my parents for that," he said.

"The main thing was I always felt I was better at soccer so I continued that but when I came back I played in the VLine junior footy carnival and realised that love for the game and mateship is a bit different to soccer, it's more collective.

"Whereas in soccer it's a bit more individual which pushed me away a bit. I don't really watch too much soccer any more but when the ball's out I like to show my skills a bit."

Joshua Rachele of the Murray Bushrangers in action during NAB League testing in March 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Rachele has shown some of his AFL attributes this season too, including a solid start to the NAB League season that saw him kick 1.3 from 19 disposals in round two and four goals from 17 touches in round three.

The 18-year-old views himself as a small forward (179cm) who can push into the midfield, and studies Giants star Toby Greene as a footballing idol.

With a growing mullet, he has also recently been compared to another emerging small forward/midfielder in the competition.

In April, as part of the NAB AFL Academy's program, Rachele spent a week training with Carlton, the side he supports.

Josh Rachele poses for a photograph with Isaac Quaynor and Changkuoth Jiath during the NAB AFL Academy jumper presentation in April 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

He took part in all of the sessions and meetings, learning off the Blues' fleet of small forwards, including Michael Gibbons, and came away with an even clearer ambition to make it to the top level.

"It was amazing at Carlton. The first day 'Teaguey' (coach David Teague) was talking and I was just in awe looking up to him and Patrick Cripps and Marc Murphy," he said.

"They were very welcoming and I learnt a lot off those guys. It was a good taste of what could happen next year.

"My first day in at Carlton, Adam Saad said to me: 'You know who you remind me of? Josh Daicos.' So that was pretty cool."