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One year on: Alex Witherden

ONE YEAR ON: Alex Witherden Alex reflects on his journey to the 2016 AFL Draft.

Alex Witherden’s draft year was one of the toughest and most frustrating in his young life.

Ahead of the 2016 AFL Draft, Witherden was earmarked as a potential top 10 draft prospect.

Throughout his junior football career he had starred for the Geelong Falcons in the TAC Cup and was captain of football at the prestigious Geelong College.

But his aspirations for the year were cruelly dashed when he broke his leg early in the season.

“It was extremely difficult dealing with a broken leg and the challenges that came with not being able to play throughout the draft year,” Witherden told

“I think the most challenging thing is not being able to play footy. We love playing footy. So not being able to be out there and enjoy the game was probably one of the most difficult parts.

“Recruiters had question marks, have things they want you to improve on. It’s difficult to do whilst on the sidelines.”

Witherden was forced to have faith that previous performances would be enough to secure an AFL contract. His patience and self-belief were tested during this time.

“It was really tough seeing close mates do really well and not being able to improve your own position,” Witherden said.  

Coaching staff at the Geelong Falcons reassured him and Club recruiters encouraged him to push on.

“For me it was just about nailing that rehab process and ensuring there were no difficulties in the future,” Witherden said.

Exactly this time last year, he was only days from finding out if his dream would become a reality.

“I had just finished my Year 12 exams at this time last year. I was just spending a bit of time with friends and family,” Witherden said.

“It was hard to escape what was coming in the following weeks so it was just overwhelming I guess.”

When it came to draft day he found it impossible to relax, so played basketball with his friends to take his mind off it.

“I guess the uncertainty is exciting but also makes you uneasy throughout the process,” Witherden said.

“Once the draft started, you get a bit clammy, a bit nervous. You’re never really sure if your name will get called out.”

Witherden’s perseverance had paid off, the Lions selected him with their 23rd pick.

He celebrated with family and friends in Geelong that night. There was an element of relief, but he was mature enough to realise that the hard work was only just beginning.

“It was but at the same time not really because you’ve got to get to the Club and prove yourself again,” Witherden said.

“For me it was just about working hard and trying to get that first game under my belt and building from there. It’s tough once you get in this environment but it’s all worth it.” 

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