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From back brace to Brisbane

Answerth: I feel really welcomed Noah Answerth already feels welcomed to the group and knows they are on the right track after a few days at the Club.

It was his second game as a top-age player for the Oakleigh Chargers in the TAC Cup when Noah Answerth flew for a mark.

The rebounding half-back had done it countless times before but this time against the Eastern Ranges was different.

Answerth fell hard, another player landing on top of him, constricting his body at a compromising angle into the ground.

The then 17-year-old lay on the Ikon Park surface, awaiting assistance from medical staff to stretcher him off and take him down the race, as onlookers watched on in shock.

In the rooms, Answerth was surrounded by his concerned family and Chargers staff as they awaited knowledge on the severity of his freak injury.

Scans confirmed that Answerth had sustained a fracture to his L1 vertebra — an injury that would rule him out of his 18th year in the TAC Cup and see him spend 12 weeks in a back brace.

The former Chargers captain would have been forgiven for thinking his draft dream was over but he approached his setback with a determined mindset and the hope of still getting drafted.

“I was hoping it wasn’t over so I tried pretty hard to do my rehab,” Answerth told AFLPlayers.com.au after being selected by the Brisbane Lions with Pick No. 55 in the National Draft.

For the first six weeks, Answerth wore a custom-made brace and was limited in his movement and unable to do much more than “lay down and rest.”

It was six weeks after the injury before Answerth could begin any form of physical activity again.

He spent time with the Chargers physiotherapist Scott Hancock, working on rehabilitating his injury and trying to regain his strength.

It is the work he did with Hancock and Kieser Australia that Answerth credits for fast tracking his rehabilitation and allowing him to miraculously return to the football field at the end of 2017.

“Oakleigh were really good to me and got me a spot as a 19-year-old on their list,” he said.

“If it wasn’t for that I don’t know if I would’ve ended up here.

“I’m really thankful that they put all that time into me so I’ve been able to fulfill my dream to get onto an AFL list.”

The Lions had made their interest in Answerth clear but he didn’t start watching the draft until Pick No. 50, instead spending the day with his girlfriend.

When Answerth finally sat down to watch the coverage, he only had to wait five picks before he heard his name called out by Andrew Dillon with the Lions' last live pick.

“It was pretty emotional for the first couple of minutes but then it was an amazing feeling,” he said.

“I knew that the Lions were interested but to actually get there...I’m really happy.”

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Answerth was able to enjoy the weekend with family and friends, helping to ease the transition, before moving to his new home last Tuesday.

In his move north, Answerth has been reunited with his close friend and former Chargers teammate Toby Wooller, who has been showing him around the city and helping him settle in.

Newlyweds Ryan and Emi Lester have taken on the role of housing Answerth while he settles into life in a new city.

“It’s been really good so far. I’ve felt nothing but welcomed to the Lions and it already feels normal to be here,” he said.

“I’m pretty lucky to have been put with Ryan.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better place to be at the moment...they’ve given me my own room, too.”

Answerth was a talented dual-sports athlete growing up, swapping his football boots in the winter for a baseball glove in the summer.

A trip to the USA and some encouragement from a primary school friend saw Answerth fall in love with the American sport, joining the Waverley Wildcats at the age of 12 before moving to the Cheltenham Hustlers.

“I was playing cricket but I didn’t really like it so I thought baseball was the next best thing,” he said.

Answerth represented Victoria in under-14s and under-16s but with his football commitments increasing, he made the difficult decision to give up baseball and pursue his dream of playing AFL.

Described as “committed” and “consistent” by those who know him, Answerth remains humble and determined in repaying the faith the Lions have shown the 19-year-old.

“The Lions have given me an opportunity and there is nothing more I can do than be as committed as I can,” he said.

“I really want to enjoy my time up here and give the club everything I’ve got.”

After spending his first year out of school undertaking a carpentry apprenticeship, Answerth is putting his budding building career on the back-burner as he focuses on life at the elite level.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs