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Recruiting Files: Atkins

November 20, 2015 6:30 AM

Draft Vault: Rory Atkins We go back into the Draft Vault and take a look at some of Rory Atkins highlights playing for the Calder Cannons in the TAC Cup.
The talent was never a question mark.

National Recruiting Manager Hamish Ogilvie tells the interesting draft tale of promising wingman Rory Atkins, who slipped to pick No.81 in the 2012 AFL National Draft …

A midfielder/forward from Maribyrnong Park, Atkins rose through the junior ranks with TAC Cup club, the Calder Cannons. He was a standout player by the age of 16 …

In my head, I’ve got a game that Rory played at Visy Park in his ‘17’ year (2011). I think he kicked five goals in the first half, and that still stands out to me. He had some quiet patches, as 17-year-olds tend to have, but his good games were very good.

Atkins made the AIS-AFL Academy team in 2011, but wasn’t selected for the second year of the program. His ability was undeniable, but there were queries over his application …

Rory would be the first to admit his professionalism wasn’t to the level it needed to be back then. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me saying that. The talent was never a question mark. It was more about his professionalism and attitude, but he loved footy and that was always going to hold him in good stead. He’d been around footy clubs all his life, which I reckon can be important.

Atkins suffered another setback when he was cut from the 2012 Victoria Metro Under-18 squad after only a couple of games against Division Two teams …

In his draft year, Rory was reasonably consistent but perhaps didn’t play to the level we thought he would. That’s not uncommon. Plenty of guys, who have great ‘17’ years, slightly plateau in their ‘18’ year and then kick on again when they get into the AFL system.

The thing we liked about Rory was how he responded to the disappointment of getting dropped. The very next week, he had 37 possessions, kicked two goals and was best afield for the Calder Cannons. ‘Nobes’ (Head of Football David Noble) actually saw that game live and it was a bit of a clincher for us.

Rory showed he could run really hard and also that he was smart, he just knew how to get the ball. The tricks we knew about, but the way he applied himself that day really stood out. He showed some resilience and we knew he had some personality, character and spunk – they were all things we liked.

Draft Vault: Rory Atkins

After a remarkable run of 10 straight games in the best players (five as best on ground) in the middle of the season, the neat-kicking left-footer took out the Calder Cannons best and fairest. He was named on the interchange bench of the TAC Cup Team of the Year, selected alongside the likes of eventual first-round draft selections, Lachie Whitfield, Ollie Wines and Joe Daniher. Atkins also finished third in the TAC Cup Coaches Award, and was equal-first in the kicking test at the Draft Combine. Ogilvie and his team liked what they saw, and the Cannons coach helped convince them to take a punt on the teenager …

We talked to Rory’s coaches a lot. Marty Allison, who now works at Essendon, was his coach at Calder. I knew Marty really well and he was a really big rap for Rory. He was very confident Rory could make it and that helped a lot. We’d had heaps of contact with Rory when he was in the AIS Academy, but I remember we had one long interview with Rory and his parents at their house and they were great.

As it turned out, Adelaide was stripped of their first and second-round draft picks as part of the sanctions for the Kurt Tippett contract investigation. Ogilvie thought Atkins would be lost to the Crows, who weren’t picking until No.62 and 81 …

Rory lived behind Essendon Airport at the time and we knew the Bombers had some interest in him. We really didn’t think he’d be there (at our late picks), but it was a really good draft so someone was always going to slide out a bit. It was pretty good value where we got him.

Despite an injury-interrupted first couple of seasons at West Lakes, Atkins continued to develop both on and away from the football field …

Rory’s matured enormously in his three years at the Club. To his credit, in his first year here he learned so much and then came back ahead of his second pre-season and trained with ‘VB’ and Sammy Kerridge in his own time to make sure he was fit enough.

He’s had a good, gradual level of improvement. His talent probably got him there early, but he’s learned how to work hard and he’s very popular with the boys. He fits in well and still has that spunk about him that we all love. He’s on the way, but it’s up to him how far he goes.

In his third season at Adelaide, Atkins finally broke through for his AFL debut. He started as the substitute in his first two matches, but starred with 24 possessions against Richmond in his third game. He followed up with two goals against the Brisbane Lions in Round 21, including a Goal of the Year contender from a tight angle at Adelaide Oval. Ogilvie and his team were on hand to watch Atkins take the next step in his career …

If players get to debut in a big game at Adelaide Oval, the atmosphere and noise of the crowd amplifies our excitement and appreciation when we (recruiters) come over to watch them play. It was great for his parents. They’ve been a terrific support for Rory and should take a lot of credit. He’s worked really hard. It took a while for him to get his chance, but he deserved it. He’s on the way, and it’s up to him how far he goes.