COREY Wagner proved that hard work and staying committed to state league football can pay off after his AFL career was revived by Fremantle in the 2022 NAB AFL National Draft.
The Dockers selected the star rebounder with pick 57 in the Draft following a fantastic season for Port Melbourne.
The 25-year-old averaged 22.3 disposals at a career-best 74.6 per cent efficiency over 15 games for the Borough this season.
He finished third in the Borough’s Jack McFarlane Medal count behind gun midfielder Harvey Hooper and breakout interceptor Ethan Phillips.
“It hasn’t really sunk it in just yet. It was pretty unexpected to happen last night,” Wagner said.
“I was more hoping for today, but it’s exciting times and I can’t wait to get over to WA and see what happens over the next couple of years.
“They’re looking very strong, Freo, so we’ll see what happens in the future and hopefully we can go deep into September and to be part of that team would be unbelievable.”
Wagner was originally drafted by North Melbourne with pick 43 in 2015 after the Brisbane Lions opted not to match the bid for the Academy prospect.
He played eight AFL matches for the Kangaroos and 16 VFL games for Werribee in two seasons at Arden St, before crossing to the Casey Demons in 2018 after being delisted.
He was promoted onto Melbourne’s list as a delisted free agent at the end of a season but again lost his AFL spot a year later despite playing 11 AFL games for the Demons.
He stayed in red and blue, swapping the yoke for the stripes to arrive at North Port Oval for the cancelled 2020 season, and his last two seasons for the Borough have been all class.
“They (Port) have been massive. I’ve really got to thank Adam Skrobalak for sending me down back. We were very strong in the midfield area and we just needed a bit of movement down back and he asked me if I wanted to do it.
“The interest started to pick up when I moved down back this year. Having the attributes to play different roles is good for the profile so anywhere that helps the team out I’ll put up my hand and put my strengths on show.
“What Port are building for the future is looking really strong and I’ll keep an eye on them next year and hopefully they can get back up to where they belong in the top four.”
Wagner said he had never given any thought to abandoning state league footy at such a young age as he pushed for just this third chance.
“It’s always been the goal to play the highest level I can. AFL has always been the goal but no matter what I’d still be playing VFL footy,” he said.
“I was fully committed to Port. We’d already started training and had our pre-season camp last week and I wanted to be a leader but things have changed and there are exciting times ahead.”
Fremantle has shown it rates strong VFL form, having drafted mature agers in future best-and-fairest winner Luke Ryan from Coburg, Lachie Schultz and Brett Bewley from Williamstown and Sam Switkowski and Sam Collins from Box Hill Hawks in recent years.
Wagner, who flies out to Perth as soon as Thursday, was the only VFL mature-age player selected in the 2022 NAB AFL National Draft. However, youngsters Will Ashcroft (Brisbane Lions, pick 2), Harvey Gallagher (Western Bulldogs, 39) and Alwyn Davey (Essendon, 45) all lined up in the competition during the season.