AFL Draft night doesn’t typically roll around more than once for most players.
Since he went undrafted at the end of the 2019 NAB League season, Williamstown forward turned defender Charlie Dean has had to watch name after name called for the past two years.
It hasn’t deterred him though. If anything, it’s made his resolve to reach the AFL stronger.
Crowned the VFL’s best young player in October, Dean spoke to The Inner Sanctum previously about the expectations that came with winning the award. The past 14 winners of the Fothergill-Round-Mitchell Medallist have gone on to be selected in the draft.
Also named in the Team of the Year, Dean was one of the competition’s stand outs for his intercept marking and strong reading of the play. But at Monday’s training session for Victorian draft hopefuls, he was just one of many embracing their final chance to impress recruiters and fans alike.
A couple of years older and wiser than most of his peers, the 20-year-old is drawing on his journey as the big night comes ever closer.
“Having gone through this – not the same, but sort of a similar context – two years ago has given me a lot of perspective,” Dean told media on Monday.
“I’ve played some good VFL footy. It’s given me a lot of confidence that if it doesn’t work out, I’d feel really comfortable to give it another crack.
“I’m full of more confidence this time around knowing I can match it with the bigger bodies and more AFL-ready players this time around.”
Dean joined Williamstown for the 2020 season, but wasn’t able to play any games with the club due to the season’s cancellation.
He played nine matches in 2021, averaging 15.1 disposals and 7.3 marks. Dean also averaged the second-most intercept possessions in the VFL of players that played more than five games.
The rising star credited his development as a defender to teammates Jack Leslie and Harrison Macreadie, as well as coach Andy Collins, who brought him to the Gulls in the first place.
If he isn’t drafted, Dean knows there’s a spot for him at Downer Oval. He signed mid-year with Williamstown, intending to repay the faith to the club should his name not be called out on next Wednesday night.
“In terms of my ‘plan B’, I’ve got that down pat,” he said.Embed from Getty Images
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The draw to continue to push for success at Williamstown was what put him over the line to sign despite still being an AFL hopeful, Dean told The Inner Sanctum after the VFL Awards.
His drive for success is an attribute that prospecting recruiters should be taking note of.
“Playing for the Gulls reminds me of junior footy in the sense that I love playing and I love training, it’s a really fun environment and it gets the best out of you,” Dean told The Inner Sanctum.
“People work hard, and most of it revolves the people there and their success. I was really keen to play finals this year and hopefully chase a flag, and that’s something I was pretty disappointed in missing out on.
“I’m pretty confident on saying if I do miss out on the draft that next year we’ll be back up the top and be playing finals footy.”
Capable of playing at either end of the ground, there’s a number of teams that could use Dean’s services in 2022.
Carlton is still reeling from the loss of experienced key defender Liam Jones after he chose to retire. While Dean thrives in an intercepting role, at 195cm he’s more than capable of becoming an AFL level lockdown defender.
North Melbourne has also recently lost veteran defender Robbie Tarrant to Richmond. Alongside Ben McKay and Aidan Corr, the young Gull could provide a chop-out for Josh Walker to allow him to spend more time up forward after signing a further one-year deal.
No matter where he’s drafted, the former Sandringham Dragon is confident in his ability to add to any club’s best 22.
“I’ve spoken to a few [clubs],” Dean said.
“Having shown that I can play at both ends of the ground I think will come in handy. I’ll be really comfortable whether I’m playing forward or back.
“I think I’ve developed some really good back craft this year, and really enjoy just playing footy no matter where it is on the ground.”
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