JOHN Noble stops to smell the roses at this time of year, every year. It has now been three years since Collingwood changed his life. Noble went from playing for West Adelaide and stacking shelves at Foodland to playing in the AFL in a matter of weeks, after the Magpies swooped in the 2019 Mid-Season Rookie Draft.

Collingwood added another product from the Bloods last Wednesday night when they selected Josh Carmichael with pick No.9, months after the 22-year-old midfielder relocated to South Australia after dominating in the Sunraysia League last season.

Noble has raced to 56 games since being plucked out of the SANFL, playing all but six games in that stretch to quickly become a permanent fixture in the Magpies’ back six, first under Nathan Buckley and then under new senior coach Craig McRae.

00:35 Mins
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Unsung Magpie shows unbelievable determination

Matthew Lloyd and Damian Barrett praise John Noble for his defensive efforts against Fremantle on Access All Areas

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While Rising Star favourite Jai Newcombe is the poster boy for what’s possible and no one will ever forget what Marlion Pickett has done since he arrived at Punt Road, Noble can comfortably mount a case to be considered the most successful selection to emerge since the Mid-Season Rookie Draft was reintroduced a few years ago.

“The longer I’ve been around the club, when there is an opportunity to smell the flowers, I do. When the mid-season draft comes around each year it does take you back to where you’ve come from. Something I’ll never lose sight of is what I was doing and where I’ve come from,” Noble told ahead of Queen’s Birthday.

“It’s been a quick journey – it has gone really quick – but I’m very grateful for where I am. I think it’s still really important to have that gratitude and to smell the flowers and see how far you as an individual have actually come.”

Noble never made representative teams as a junior and had never attracted any interest from an AFL club until a month before the Mid-Season Rookie Draft. Even then, it was only Collingwood and Essendon, who ended up drafting Will Snelling.

Collingwood's John Noble handballs whilst being tackled by Carlton's Matthew Owies in round 11 at the MCG on May 29, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Nothing has come easy for the running defender, who was born prematurely as a twin, taking longer to develop physically than everyone else. But despite now parking his car at the AIA Centre every day, the 25-year-old hasn’t forgotten that feeling of rejection.

“It motivates me still, absolutely. It is something that burns in my core, in a good way. A sense of proving people wrong and having self-belief and determination to get where I am now has definitely been a massive influence in why I’ve got to where I am. I’ll never lose sight of the people and the things that put a bump in my road,” Noble said.

“But no doubt, it’s a strong motivation. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what pick you go at; once you’re in the door, you’re in the door. That’s when the real work starts. I missed out on four drafts and was overlooked by everyone. I think that time you can build a real strong sense of resilience. Sometimes it shows if you’ve got the determination to get there or not get there.”

Noble was provided with a reminder that his spot isn’t a lock when he was dropped from the 22 ahead of the trip to Queensland to play Brisbane on Easter Thursday. He came on as the medi-sub in the second half, made an impact, then produced one of his best performances of the season the following week against the Bombers. He hasn’t looked back since.

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Noble refuses to give up in great rundown tackle

Collingwood defender John Noble grits the teeth and is rewarded for his endeavour

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“Sometimes those things can sharpen you up a little bit. It leaves a little bit of a bitter taste in your mouth, which can lead to more motivation to really tip in. That’s how I was always going to respond. In this industry you don’t have enough time to whinge and complain and things like that,” he said.

“To be left out of a game is never pleasant. I think that one was more of a personnel matchup against Brisbane, but there were certainly things I needed to work on in my game. I’ve worked on that with ‘Leppa’ (Justin Leppitsch) who has been great for me. A little shift in my mindset has really changed how I’m going about my business at the moment. It’s given me good performances just doing the basics really well.”

Leppitsch has left his mark on Noble since joining Collingwood’s football department as head of strategy ahead of the pre-season. The former Brisbane Lions coach and champion defender has quickly proven to use left-field teaching methods. He showed Noble a poem that resonated closely with where the Magpie defender was at in life and in football, helping him return to his best.

Noble is the only player in the game right now with a dad coaching an AFL side. Growing up as the son of David Noble provided him with an opportunity to peek behind the curtains that many never get access to, even the rich and famous. Before David became coach of North Melbourne, he was one of the most respected sports administrators in the AFL, spending a decade in a variety of senior roles at Adelaide before becoming head of football at Brisbane. 

North Melbourne coach John Noble hugs his son, Collingwood star David Noble after their teams round eight match at Marvel Stadium on May 8, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Now the pair are in the AFL at the same time, but David is in the spotlight, navigating all the scrutiny and criticism that comes with coaching a side that currently sits 1-11 and has a percentage just north of 50 per cent.

“I don’t really care what people think about my dad because he’s my dad and I’m his son. I don’t buy into what the media say, I don’t really listen to any of it,” he said.

“I know he is a very highly respected individual in this industry and I know he’s got the tools and the knowledge to do what needs to be done at North Melbourne. I’m his son and we don’t generally talk too much about footy because it can be quite consuming.”

Many inside Collingwood are bullish about Carmichael, confident veteran talent spotter Derek Hine has unearthed another diamond in the rough. McRae was confident on Thursday that the 190cm midfielder will play in the second half of the season, while Noble is thrilled to see another West Adelaide boy at the AIA Centre.

“It’s awesome for him to get his opportunity. Westies is a great club and presents an opportunity for him to come through the ranks and show everyone what he’s got,” he said. “Being at Collingwood, we’ve got an amazing culture, surrounded by a lot of people who give amazing support from our coaches, from our staff and players here. We’ve welcomed him with open arms. That will definitely give him the best opportunity.”

Time will tell if Carmichael can make it. Noble has made it, but not in his eyes. He wants to be still at Collingwood smelling the roses in seven or eight years at this time of winter.

02:33 Mins
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Pies land strong ball-winning mid in Carmichael

The Magpies welcome young gun Josh Carmichael to the club with the ninth selection in the 2022 NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft

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