SYDNEY CYGNET: Sydney Swans rookie Brady Rowles is doing all he can during lockdown at home in Mildura to force his way into the AFL side as soon as possible. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By MITCH RODD

POUNDING the familiar running track at the Old Aerodrome Ovals in Mildura is a far cry from covering kilometres at the hallowed Sydney Cricket Ground.

To say the past six months have been eventful for Brady Rowles would be a massive understatement.

The 19-year-old was taken as a rookie draft pick by the Sydney Swans in November 2019, and almost straight away made the move to the NSW capital to begin life as an AFL footballer.

Fast forward to May 2020 and life is different for all of us, especially so if you’re a professional athlete.

In an ideal world, Rowles would be soaking up the information passed on to him by AFL superstars such as Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin, Josh Kennedy and Isaac Heeney at training, as well performing with the NEAFL side in a bid to make the first team.

Thanks to the COVID-19 virus restrictions, the speedster has found himself back home with his mum while completing all the necessary strength, conditioning and cardio programs.
Rowles, however, said he is just going to “roll with punches” that come his way.

The former Bendigo Pioneers wingman and fellow Sunraysia draftee Dylan Stephens, from Red Cliffs via Norwood, joined the Swans in November, and the Mildura Football and Netball Club export was loving every minute of being in a professional environment.

“I was loving it,” he said, “just being in the changing rooms and walking past some of the AFL’s best, I was like a kid in a candy shop.

“I was still trying to learn the ropes. I hadn’t played in any intra-club or Marsh series matches so I was really in the process of preparing for the NEAFL and hopefully get the chance to push for a senior game. Obviously that’s all on hold now.

“Not being used to the rigours of AFL training I was probably a bit overloaded and got a bit sore but it’s all fine now.

“It’s been a bit of a weird first year in the AFL system, but you’ve just got to roll with the punches and take everything as it comes.”

Back at home, Rowles has had to settle for completing running programs at the Aero Ovals, utilising his uncle’s gym set-up, and getting his hands on the ball as often as possible.

The slightly-built teenager had spent much of the pre-season working with backline coach John Blakey, and development coach, Lloyd Perris.

“John was teaching me a lot about body positioning and defending, which is fairly new to me,” Rowles said.

“At Bendigo I’d usually be played on a wing or in midfield so this has been something different.

“Lloyd Perris, who’s also the NEAFL assistant, spent a lot of time with me doing extras, just ensuring I got my hands on the ball as much as possible.

“Training is so much different to Under 18s because it’s at 100 percent effort the whole time five days a week. In that environment when you get the ball you need to make it count.

“It’s all still pretty new and there is so much to learn.

“I moved out of home to live in Bendigo at 17, so being away from family and looking after myself is something I had already experienced.

“I’m housemates with Barry O’Connor, Matthew Ling and Hayden McLean. They’ve all been fantastic at showing me how everything works.

“I just want to listen and learn from everyone who’s been there, and see how the superstars prepare themselves to become better players.”