FIRST-ROUND draftee Sam De Koning says the rapid growth that propelled him from a midfielder to 202cm key defender has helped him to become a more rounded player.
The ruck-sized prospect spent his junior years learning his midfield craft and battling against bigger opponents.
De Koning’s growth hit quickly and he was suddenly transformed into a completely different player.
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“I was always a midfielder in my junior time, so I worked on all those skills. Then from about U16s onwards I think I grew about 22 to 24 centimetres,” De Koning says.
“I like to pride myself on my (midfielder) skillset and my ground-level balls and being able to read the play like a midfielder and I think that’s always helped me.
“I always thought I’m a tall man with a small player’s brain and I think like a midfielder so I think I can read the game well and that has really helped me in my development and my performances over the last couple of years.”
Talent ID manager Troy Selwood remembers watching De Koning play before he shot skyward.
“When we first started watching Sam in the under 16s he was an undersized key defender. He was coming up against guys and fighting out of his height and weight division,” Selwood says.
“Then by under 18s there’s this bloke who’s 202cm doing the same stuff. We were like, my god, it’s incredible how much you keep growing.
“I think what you see as a 15 and 16 year old when he wasn’t so big, he had to play a bit like a midfielder or a half back, he’s been able to keep those attributes even with his growth spurt.
“His ability to read the play behind the ball is just fantastic. He’s got great mobility, is a natural marker so really backs himself in the air and has good skills.”
De Koning is now setting his sights on filling out his frame with the muscle required of an AFL key pillar.
“He’s going to take time Sam because he’s got the skinny body at the moment and he’s going to have to improve his size and strength but over the next few years,” Selwood says.
“To try and continue playing that role while you’re growing so quickly – it wouldn’t be the easiest thing to do.”