When Jock Cornell was selected by the Cats in November’s rookie draft, few of the subsequent news reports focussed on his football ability.
Instead, much was made of the fact that his mum is a member of the famous Daniher clan from Ungarie.
“In every write-up I always seem to be mentioned as Joe Daniher’s cousin or as Terry, Neale, Anthony and Chris’s nephew,” Cornell told geelongcats.com.au with a chuckle.
“But I think it’s great that people make the connection. It’s a great family and I’m very lucky to be part of it.”
Although he is happy to blessed with an impressive bloodline, Cornell is desperate to make his own name in the game.
And the 18-year-old, who was last year a member of the AFL Academy and represented NSW/ACT with distinction at the national under-18 championships, has already made a big impression at the Cattery.
Cornell has impressed the coaches by holding his own in the match-play drills that have become commonplace since the Christmas/New Year break.
“It’s been really good,” he said. “It’s really starting to ramp up now, but I’ve really enjoyed being around the boys and doing the training so far.
“The fitness staff have eased us new boys into it really nicely. They don’t want us going out to hard and then breaking down halfway through the season.”
Cornell has only suffered one minor setback so far.
“When I got here I was fully fit and ready to go,” he explained. “Then in one training session I strained the capsule in behind my kneecap.
“It wasn’t bad, just enough to make me miss one session. Then I just strapped it and it was right to go.”
Having grown up playing bush footy in Ungarie, the town made famous by the Daniher clan, Cornell is used to copping a knock and just getting on with the job.
That attitude was instilled in him by Chris Daniher, who coached him in Ungarie’s under-12 and under-14 teams (Chris’s son Harvey, who is the same age as Cornell, was also in those teams).
“It was good fun back then,” Cornell said. “Footy was just about backing yourself and having a crack.”
Cornell’s family moved to Wagga Wagga when he was 14, but he reunited with Chris Daniher last season at the rather extravagantly named Riverina league club Mangoplah Cookardinia United Eastlakes.
Thanks in part to Daniher’s astute coaching and Cornell’s efforts in the midfield, the Goannas finished on top of the ladder, then defeated Wagga Tigers in the second semi-final.
But Daniher and Cornell ended up on the end of a 72-point Grand Final thrashing from a match-hardened Collingullie-Glenfield Park side, which had finished fifth on the ladder before barnstorming its way through the finals.
“We got pumped,” Cornell said. “I’m still not sure exactly what happened there.
“We just couldn’t get anything out of the middle of the ground, which makes it hard.
“We couldn’t really get anything together for the day.”
Having played his first senior practice match for Mangoplah CUE at the age of 14 and his first official senior game at the age of 15, Cornell has experienced plenty of footy against men.
He hopes that will stand him in good stead in the upcoming VFL season.
“Being around those bigger bodies, especially in country footy where it’s so slow and contested, you’re always copping a few whacks and heavy tackles.”
There was a time when Cornell seemed a big chance to join Greater Western Sydney rather than Geelong.
He was part of the Giants’ academy and played seven games in their NEAFL team during the second half of the season.
Cornell kicked 10 goals in his seven games, including a haul of five against Canberra (the club that plays in its local competition under the Eastlake banner).
“I knew the club and the GWS boys pretty well by the end of it,” he said. “But it didn’t worry me where I ended up. I just wanted to get a chance at an AFL club.”
Cornell is “stoked” that Geelong gave him that chance.
All going to plan, he hopes to be a regular member of the Cats’ VFL midfield when the season proper rolls around.
“But there’s a lot of good onballers that will be playing, so I can’t just expect to walk in there.
“We’ll just have to see how it goes.”
Like the other youngsters who joined Geelong in last year’s national and rookie drafts, Cornell’s dream is to play an AFL game.
As a rookie, he knows that he will need to work extra-hard and have a bit of luck for that dream to come true.
But he is aiming high nonetheless.
“I’ll just try and train well and play as well as I can in the VFL and you never know what can happen,” he said.
“Injuries and things can happen, so I need to be in the right place at the right time.”