Colac footballer Cooper Stephens says you’d be likely to find him at the beach with his dog as he waits to find his fate in this week’s AFL National Draft.
The 18-year-old is shaping up to be the Colac Tigers’ highest-ranked draft pick since Darcy Lang went to Geelong with pick 16 in 2013.
Football experts thought Stephens could have gone top 10 following an impressive 2018 season with the Geelong Falcons and Vic Country as a bottom-aged player.
A season-ending leg injury in April would prove a setback for the strong-bodied midfielder, but an inspirational recovery and impressive results at this year’s combine have him in the mix to go in the top 25 during the two-day draft; tonight and tomorrow at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium.
Stephens, who will watch the draft at home with his family, said it was a surreal feeling as he closed in on achieving his lifelong dream.
“I’m feeling a bit of everything; excited, nervous,” he said.
“I think the closer I get, the more nerves I have.
“It’s been a bit of a long process, you just want to find out where you’re going, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Stephens, who grew up a Hawthorn supporter idolising Shaun Burgoyne, Nat Fyfe and Joel Selwood, said he had spoken with “a fair few” AFL clubs throughout the season.
But he said he remained open about where he could end up.
“I had a few meetings (with clubs) at the combine,” Stephens said.
“Outside of that you meet with clubs here and there, they’re pretty consistent throughout the year, just whenever you or they are available.
“I’ve met with a few clubs, which gives you a little bit of confidence, but you still never really know what to expect.
“I’m actually going in with an open mind, I’m happy to travel interstate, it’s all part of the experience.”
Stephens has come a long way since his football journey began with Colac’s Auskick program in the early 2010s, before joining the Colac Tigers.
He often played above his age level with Colac, featuring in an AFL Barwon under-16 premiership as a bottom-bottom-ager in 2015.
The son of Dwayne and Mandy, and brother of two sisters Riley, 22, and Kassidy, 16, said he was a “typical country kid”.
“I loved sport; I played footy, tennis, cricket, basketball,” Stephens said.
See today’s Colac Herald for more.