By Ben Pollard
Xavier Richards and Jack Frost have both had to deal with rejection on their way to becoming AFL players.
The former SMJFL juniors missed out on being drafted to an AFL list when they were 18 year olds, but their persistence paid off in last Tuesday’s AFL Rookie Draft.
Ex-Prahran junior Richards, 19, has now joined his All Australian premiership-winning brother Ted at Sydney, while ex-Ormond junior Frost, 20, was picked up by Collingwood.
Both players came through the Sandringham Dragons TAC Cup program and the club’s region manager Ryan O’Connor said he was rapt to see the boys get their chance at the top level.
Xavier Richards played as an over-age Dragon in 2012 and O’Connor said the athletic key-position player used the year to rebound from his 2011 draft day disappointment.
“I think (AFL) clubs saw that he had to work a little bit more on some game sense and decision-making type of things,” O’Connor said. “He was obviously disappointed, but he really knuckled down to the task of what he needed to do.
“His form did fluctuate a little bit over the course of the year, but some of his football was absolutely elite.”
O’Connor said Xavier, like brother Ted, would probably take time to develop at AFL level but had the versatility to switch between defence and the forward line, which would hold him in good stead.
“I’d say he (Xavier) is probably a little bit more athletic than Ted,” O’Connor said.
“He’s probably not a dour defender. He likes to get the ball and run and create a little bit.
“He’s a very exciting athlete for his height (195cm).”
Jack Frost had a testing year at Williamstown in the VFL after undergoing hip operations in the 2011 off-season, but finished 2012 in great form as a key defender.
O’Connor praised Frost for overcoming draft rejection as an 18 year old and getting the chance to join brother and fellow Ormond product Sam (GWS) in the AFL.
He said Collingwood had picked up a player whose competitiveness and physicality couldn’t be questioned.
“He (Jack) likes a little bit more of the rough and tumble and the bash and crash,” O’Connor said. “He’d probably be that lock-away key defender you see at AFL level these days.”
O’Connor said Frost – like many young key-position prospects – simply needed to develop his body before AFL recruiters were prepared to draft him.
“There was probably a little bit of conjecture as to how he would handle the bigger bodies and some defensive structures down back,” O’Connor said.
“(But) since going to VFL level and playing against men, he’s been able to show that he can very much handle that key post.
“Sometimes the TAC Cup gives a great form line for certain types of players; other times they still need to prove they can go and play against those fully-grown competitors in the key posts and that’s why taller players probably take a little more time.”
But as they say, good things come to those who wait. Xavier Richards and Jack Frost can attest to that.