There were certain players the Brisbane Lions needed at the 2016 draft to for the club to rebuild in a bid to experience success in the coming years.
A talented teenager, from the country Victorian town of Horsham, by the name of Jarrod Berry was definitely one.
It wasn’t just because of his big engine or his versatility to play through the midfield and down back.
Having had several players leave the club and wins being few and far between, National Recruiting Manager Stephen Conole knew there needed to be an extra focus on specific personality traits.
“To get boys to move states and to try to help us with some sort of rebuild, we needed players with resilience and character,” Conole explained.
“Moving away from home isn’t easy for any young lad, but Jarrod did that already going to boarding school in Ballarat, so we had a reasonable idea he could do it.
“He also didn’t have an easy top age year with serious injuries and other adversity, but he was always around to support his teammates, so we knew he was quite resilient.
“He was always a super leader amongst his peers, well respected by teammates and we were looking to get players into the footy club who were impressive on field and off field.”
Right throughout the recruiting process Berry gave Conole and the Lions every indication he was the player they wanted and needed. But sometimes that changes when the player arrives at an AFL club.
Not Berry, if anything the former Victoria Country captain became even more of a natural leader and professional.
“He was always a real self-starter, it wasn’t just his footy ability he set an example on the training track and that stood out from the moment he got to the club,” the Lions recruiting manager said.
“He is just such an important cog and a strong team player – he has a fantastic team ethos, and he has always tried to make the team better.
“It is a fantastic effort to get to 100 games, and as Leon Harris (Lions recruitment consultant) says ‘you are not an AFL player until you’ve played 100 games’ and I reckon the next 100 games he will have real success.”
Getting Berry to Brisbane was one thing, though as the Lions had found out – keeping players like him at the club and building around them was the challenge.
Recruiting best mate and fellow North Ballarat Rebel Hugh McCluggage in the same draft helped a lot, as did bringing in Berry’s younger brother Thomas a couple of years later.
Now on the eve of his 100th game, Berry has lived up to be the player and person the Lions believed he would. And most importantly he has stayed committed.
“The boys and the culture that we have,” Berry said when asked what has kept him at the Lions.
“They (the boys) are actually my genuine mates outside of football and that gives us a closer bond and we know each other better than we would if we were just teammates.
“And I guess the Brisbane lifestyle up here is pretty relaxed and easy going, which I love.”