Northern Knights captain Jade Gresham has wanted to play footy ever since he could remember.
Whether it was having a kick with his dad in his front yard, or playing for Preston RSL at the age of seven; football has always been in Gresham’s blood.
From Preston, Gresham made his way over to the South Morang Football Club, a club where he enjoyed quite a lot of success.
In the four seasons that he played for the Lions, Gresham won four Best and Fairest’s, three premierships, as well as being adjudicated best on ground in two Grand Finals.
He also picked up two Northern Football League Best and Fairests. Not too bad for only four seasons.
It was from here where Gresham made the jump to the Northern Knights, as he began to head for his ultimate goal; playing in the AFL.
Gresham began playing for the Northern Knights in the Under 15’s competition, but he says that the jump from the 16’s to his current side, the 18’s, was the toughest transition yet.
“Yeah it was a lot. Kids older then you, playing against bigger bodies, it was tough,” he said.
It was a transition that Jade made very smoothly, as he played in 17 games as a bottom-ager in the Knights TAC Cup team.
Gresham took home the Rising Star award for best young player at the club in 2014 which impressed Northern Knights head coach Andrew Shakespeare.
“Jade came into the program with a good footballing background, and he found the level pretty quickly. He really showed that he was able to play at the level”, said Shakespeare.
For Jade, it was important to set himself apart from other bottom-aged players, and this was something that was clear to Shakespeare all along.
“It’s a competition within the team for spots, and Jade really strove, even in his first year, to be a leader.”
To begin the Knights’ 2015 campaign, Jade Gresham was voted captain of the club, which is something he doesn’t take for granted.
Previous captains include current AFL players such as Jack Grimes, David Zaharakis and Nathan Hrovat, and Gresham knows it’s a privilege to be mentioned alongside them.
“It’s pretty humbling. To be captain, with a lot of good players to come through as captain, I’m pretty proud,” he said,
When asked whether Gresham would be an on field or off field leader as captain, Shakespeare believed that he could do it all.
“I think it’s a bit of both. Once he steps on the field, he’s ability to lead by the way he plays, his actions, are really strong,” he said. “Off field as well, Jade’s a very level young man, and he leads off field, through his actions and behaviours, how our core values are set out at this club.”
So far this season, the Knights are only one win, two losses from three TAC Cup games, but that hasn’t stopped Gresham from showing the league what he’s capable of.
Jade has registered possession counts of 27, 31 and 39 in his first three games, and also has three goals. It’s something that he and Shakespeare are very thrilled about.
“Yeah I wanted to have a good start to the year, just to start off on a good note,” Gresham said, with Shakespeare adding that he’s been “super” in the early stages of the season.
As Gresham is still learning the game, there’s a couple of star AFL players that he’s modelling his game on.
“Probably Trent Cotchin and Travis Boak, those kind of players that play inside and a bit of out,” he said.
He seems to be studying those two quite closely, as there is a lot of Cotchin in the way Gresham gets up and down the ground.
With the personal success that Gresham has accomplished so far this TAC Cup season, it shows just how impressive his bottom-age season was.
In the visual below, Gresham’s 2014 TAC Cup averages are graphed against the top five drafted midfielders in last year’s AFL draft. Gresham has similar numbers to those of Christian Petracca (selected at pick two overall), Jordan De Goey (pick 5), Paul Ahern (pick 7), Liam Duggan (pick 11) and Corey Ellis (pick 12), which shows that his 2014 campaign as a bottom-aged player, was as good as those who were eligible for the National Draft.
From here, Gresham just wants to build on his current standard of footy. It’s something that Shakespeare and his coaching staff will also help Jade with, as they’ve got some season plans for him.
“We see the National Championships coming up as a real stepping stone for Jade, so we’ll be gearing him up for that as it comes round, but also we’ve got some TAC Cup games before then, and we see that as being areas where Jade can improve himself again,” Shakespeare said.
“Yes we have a big picture in place (getting Gresham drafted), but there are certainly stepping stones along the way that we just want to keep ticking off for Jade.”
Gresham has also set a few goals for himself, but he likes to keep things simple.
“I just wanna play some consistent footy at the Knights, hopefully make the Vic Metro squad, and hopefully get drafted, if all goes well,” he said.
The way Jade Gresham is going, he won’t have to hope for these outcomes for long.