Mac Andrew AFL Draft

Mac Andrew was dominant in the NAB League this year. Photo: Dandenong Stingrays

Mac Andrew only needed six NAB League games to turn the head of every AFL recruiter in the country. He reflected on his rise from relative unknown to top-five talent.

Mac Andrew only needed six NAB League games to turn the head of every AFL recruiter in the country.

In his first game of 2021 the 200-centimetre ruckman burst onto the scene with 22 disposals and 11 hit-outs for the Dandenong Stingrays. He wowed with soaring contested marks, landing like a cat and bounding away with the ball tucked under his arm.

He followed it up with strong outings in the NAB League, and captivated all draft watchers with a two-minute period in the first quarter of a Metro vs Country trial after he received a late call-up to the squad. Andrew kicked the first goal of the game after a big contested mark then shifted into the ruck, winning the hit-out and buttering up at ground level like a midfielder 20 centimetres shorter.

From trying to make the Dandenong Stingrays team to now being rated as the best ruckman in the draft and a sure-fire first-round pick, Mac Andrew reflected on his rapid rise with The Inner Sanctum.

“I really shocked myself this year – I didn’t think I’d be going this well,” Andrew admitted.

“I kind of came into the season with a couple of goals to tick off. One was just making the squad, then playing Round 1 and then hopefully getting invited to [Vic] Country.

“I guess I’ve exceeded my expectations for the year.”

For Andrew, football ramped up early. Born in Egypt to South Sudanese parents, he joined the Melbourne Demons Next Generation Academy in his teenage years when the program was just getting off the ground.

“I started off 13, 14 years old with their first ever academy stuff when they first introduced it. Meeting a lot of new boys and multicultural kids, it’s been great.”

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He’s now set to be the first casualty of the ‘Jamarra rule’ – with clubs tied to draftees through NGAs unable to match a bid inside the top 20 selections on draft night. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Braeden Campbell and Lachie Jones all found homes with their respective NGA clubs in the first round last year, but the Demons won’t be afforded that same luxury 11 months on.

For some kids, knowing where you’re headed on draft night can be a weight off the shoulders. But for Mac Andrew, he doesn’t see himself as a casualty of the new rule – rather a beneficiary.

“I think it’s kind of hard for the club to be training kids through their academy for three, four, five years and not getting access to them,” Andrew said.

“It would get pretty frustrating for them, but at the same time I personally don’t mind.

“It brings that joy to the draft of not knowing where you’re going to end up on the night.”

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Andrew made consistent strides up draft boards throughout the year. His moment of realisation that he could make it came when he was added to the AFL Academy and faced the likes of Darcy Fort against Geelong’s VFL team.

“Not many kids my age get to play in the Australian side. Even for AFL players they don’t always get to experience that growing up – it was an honour.

“It was basically my fourth game for the year, coming up against bigger bodies and the speed of the game was just a whole lot faster from what I had experienced.

“Seeing how AFL-listed players play, and the speed that they play while still getting the basic fundamentals right, that was an eye-opener.

“It changed how I trained and how professional I needed to go about everything. Just getting what I need to do done, and doing it all at a high level.”

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Ironically, the Demons have laid out the blueprint for Andrew to be taken within the first few selections of November 24th’s AFL Draft. In 2019 they selected Luke Jackson with Pick 3, reaching up to grab a long-term partner for Max Gawn that offered tantalising upside.

Jackson and 2020 draftee Nik Cox are the two players Mac Andrew sees himself in at the next level.

“There are a few players I look at and take elements from – Nik Cox is definitely one. The way he moves and at his height, I feel I move quite similar to him.

“[Brodie] Grundy and Luke Jackson are the guys in the ruck, the way they follow up their ruck-work – I like to think I can mirror that ability.

As was the case with Jackson, Andrew’s feedback from AFL clubs has centred around his ground-level work and versatility for a player of his size.

“A lot of it is similar – putting on size and building up my strength is the obvious one.

“Clubs reckon my follow up work is really good, and my competitiveness against ruckmen is really good as well – plus my versatility. Being able to play across all three areas of the ground is something I’ve got good feedback from AFL clubs on.”

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