(Photo courtesy of Dave Savell)
Starved of team success in his junior years and now with the bitter taste of narrow finals defeat, Sandringham Dragon’s Nathan Freeman knows that it is time to make a mark when it counts.
“It was pretty tough losing the prelim by only four points, and also going down in semi by two. There’s definitely a bit of fire in the belly this year though” Freeman said. “It was certainly exciting, the only couple of finals I’ve really played in. We had a great group last year with a nice spread of top and bottom age boys which is certainly important, and we have that again this year.”
After winning the flag in 2011 and reaching the penultimate weekend in 2012, the culture and depth of talent at the Dragons has them pushing for the Premiership again, in what is emerging as a very even TAC Cup competition in 2013.
“With two wins and a draw from the first four it’s been a mixed start, it really seems that there is such evenness throughout the completion, anyone can knock off anyone this year” said Freeman who knows the importance of sustaining momentum, especially when integral players must miss games due to Associated Public Schools (APS) football commitments.
“We started well but we really need to keep up that form when a few of the boys go out for APS footy, we’re certainly aiming for a strong position and the coming weeks are pretty important.’
While thriving in his footy on field and subsequently winning a starting spot on ball in Vic Metro’s state squad, Freeman is relishing the opportunity to develop his leadership through the TAC Cup system. As a second year player, Freeman has taken a more senior role with both hands in 2013.
“You learn a lot off the older blokes, in communicating well with the bottom age boys, it’s pretty daunting coming in as a bottom age player into such an elite program” he said. “I think as a top ager you need to be there to support the younger boys and get around them and show them the way to go. It’s our responsibly to make them feel welcome and bring them up in that professional environment.”
On his selection into the state squad, one of ten from Sandringham, Freeman knows it’s a rare and coveted opportunity. Missing out on the traditional under 16 championships pathway due to a serious leg injury a couple of years ago has only compounded his desire to compete at the state level.
“To be named with such good company it’s definitely a privilege. I haven’t played for Vic before; I had a fractured leg during under 16’s” he said. “This year I certainly want to take my chances and take my opportunities, as it’s the first and last time to be able to represent your state.”
And with the strong presence of Dragons boys donning the big ‘V’, Freeman certainly acknowledges it bodes well for the strength and talent of the Sandringham squad. “There’s about ten of us in the squad which is good. It’s very reflective of the quality of our top age boys, and it’s a good spread of forwards, mids and back, which is what you want from a team perspective” he said. “It no doubt shows how we have a lot of talent down at the Sandy at the moment.”
While unassuming and humble in talking about his own game, Freeman has made a name for himself in his second TAC cup season as a powerful athlete with first class breakaway speed from the contest. Freeman’s pace, agility, finishing and ability to break the lines put him in the top echelon of dual midfielders in the competition and there are no surprises who he models his game on.
“I really enjoy Paddy Dangerfield and Luke Shuey’s work, the more power based speed type players, I watch a lot of what they do and how they go about it” Freeman said. “Speed is probably my number one strength, I try to use that and my break away speed to really impact games.”
Freeman also had his take on teammate and early front-runner for the Bound for Glory News Rising Star Medal in Max Hayes, who currently sits second in our inaugural award for the best TAC Cup player. “He’s really surprised me, he’s stepped up his game a lot” he said. “He’s really playing with a lot of confidence at the moment and is obviously one of the key big men going around this year.”
On whether he has the scope to continue the hot form and be one of the competitions premier players, Freeman was also bullish. “He loves to crash packs and has a great size, if he keeps playing with the confidence that he has now he’ll definitely be one of the best bigs in the comp.”
With school footy disrupting a considerable portion of his season and limiting his TAC games, the Dragons critical play maker is keen to get back at the pointy end of the season make an impact come finals. “I’d love to get back there this year and go one better, to have a crack at the grand final and win is certainly the goal, I think we’re capable.”