Bailey Laurie loves footy.
Don’t doubt that; he told me 12 times, despite never being directly asked.
It’s why this potential top 30 draft prospect made a pact to himself before the NAB-League finals series last year to ‘do everything possible’ to force his way back into the talent-rich Oakleigh Chargers line-up.
And it paid off.
Having played just four regular-season matches, he stood up in the pre-finals intra-club match, which would be a precursor of his September to come.
“I was selected in the ‘twos’ kind of team that day… and I probably played one of the better games I’ve ever played – I don’t want to talk myself up too much – but the coaches were really happy so I got a lot of confidence in that game and was over the moon to get selected,” he recalls.
Confidence is a key component for an offensive-minded, instinctive player like Laurie.
It allowed him to play, he believes, the best footy of his life in attack throughout his side’s premiership run to show his evasiveness, efficiency, smarts, and crucially, calmness on the big stage.
“[Performing at the level] was something I thought was inside of me but to actually express it… at the end of last year has provided me with a lot of confidence moving forward so I’m really grateful I got to play,” Laurie said.
“I remember standing out on the ground before many people were there, with the boys and looked around and thought how good was this and just really wanted to enjoy the day and that mindset helped me to be a lot less nervous.
“It was a great period of my life,” Laurie, who also won a premiership with Caulfield Grammar last year, reflects.
But he’s able to separate that boyhood love for footy from being consumed by the AFL draft this season.
How? Put it down to his maturity.
Proof of that is seen in his transformation from a young flashy small forward to a trustworthy utility.
“I think the midfield-forward role is something that’s a bit more natural to me, but in under-16s I slowly started to develop my craft in other areas,” Laurie said.
“I got put in defence in one of the under 16 Vic metro carnival games… and I played halfback for the major part of the year last year for [schoolboy side] Caulfield Grammar and for Oakleigh.
“It gave me a lot of opportunities to work on defensive aspects of my game, but I think I was still able to express my offensive traits with my ball use.
“So I feel like I’m versatile as a player now and I trust my ability to go forward, back, or mid which is really important with the list sizes getting reduced this year.
“I’m a huge believer in getting the most out of yourself and continually improving and I just love playing footy so any role the coach wants me to do I’ll do that to the best of my ability.”