It’s only been just under two years in the AFL system for Elijah Hollands and already it’s been a wild ride to get where he is this week’s NAB Rising star nominee.
Hollands was selected with pick seven in the 2020 national draft but after suffering a torn ACL in his draft year, his journey to becoming this week’s Rising Star nomination was anything but easy.
If there is one thing that Hollands has learnt from his time so far in the AFL system, it’s building that mental strength.
“It just builds resilience, I think that’s the first thing that I got from it,” Hollands said.
“Even starting before I got to the footy club in my first year, I was doing my knee rehab inside my house with COVID in Wodonga. So, you’ve got to build that mental toughness and that strength, just to keep moving through it.
“I think that’s just the main thing to me and it’ll be something that I’ll need throughout my footy career. So, I’m glad that I was able to grab it early.”
It’s been a patient wait for AFL fans to see Hollands at AFL level, but it’s been the same for the 20-year-old who’s had to tick all the boxes to get to where he is now.
“The messaging was really clear with what I needed to work on to get into the AFL system so that was the first thing,” he said.
“Then I just got to work with the guys in the VFL, making sure that I was getting those things right so when I came into the AFL side, I was going to be able to perform. It’s nice to know that has worked and I’ve contributed to the AFL side.”
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Getting the Rising Star nomination has been a huge reward for the young midfielder after putting together a string of great performances but for Hollands, his focus is getting the confidence and backing from his teammates.
“Yeah, it is a nice reward. I guess the main thing I take out of it is that I’m getting the confidence I get from my teammates as well, that’s what I’m looking for,” he said.
“I guess it’s nice to get some recognition outside of that but what I’m looking for is the backing from my teammates and I’ve got that so far so that’s really nice.”
While finals are out of the question for Gold Coast this season, the focus for the rest of the year for Hollands and his teammates will be to build on that momentum going into the 2023 season.
“I guess for the whole club it’s about now building some momentum to move forward into the summer and then for the start of next season. It starts with a great challenge this weekend against Geelong who are at the top of the table and the premier side in the competition at the moment,” Hollands said.
“It’s a great challenge for the young guys like Mac [Andrew] and I who are trying to cement our spots in the side but for the rest of the list as well to try and come away with a win and really stamp some momentum moving forward.”
Gold Coast Suns Coach Stuart Dew said that he’s been impressed by the young gun across his first three AFL games.
“To be able to come in and not just get a couple of games and get back out, he’s come in and delivered what we’re after,” Dew said.
“He knows where the goals are, he’s flexible, he can play multiple positions – so we’re really pleased.”
Hollands and Gold Coast will take on ladder leaders Geelong on Saturday afternoon at Metricon Stadium.
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