K rock Football

Close ready to go

Brad Close will make his debut for Geelong on Monday night. (Geelong Cats Media Image)

GEELONG rookie Brad Close believes two years spent in the SANFL has him well prepared for his AFL debut.

The 21-year-old small forward (he turns 22 on Thursday), will make his first appearance in the Hoops in tomorrow night’s clash with Fremantle at Optus Stadium, among six changes to the Cats’ team that lost to Collingwood on July 16.

Close played 28 senior matches with Glenelg, including every game in 2019 as the Bays went on to win the SANFL premiership.

“I learnt a fair bit in the last couple of years with Glenelg,” he said.

“Mark Stone as the coach, who spent a few years with Freo and the Swans before that, he passed on a fair bit of knowledge to myself, and I think I can use that to my advantage.”

Close was told on Saturday afternoon he would become Geelong’s 1089th VFL-AFL player.

“I got the call down to the boardroom where all the coaches were meeting, and Chris Scott broke the news, which was a pretty cool moment,” he said.

“I was pretty shocked at the time, to be honest.

“Ever since then, I’ve been really excited to get out there.”

Close was Geelong’s first pick in the 2020 Rookie Draft, with recruiting boss Stephen Wells saying at the time that Mt Gambier product had “earned his chance on an AFL list”.

“Despite being a small player, he’s very tough, he’s a good tackler, and a good mark, and runs really well,” Wells said.

“He provides some versatility as a hard-running player.”

Close said having been overlooked at previous AFL drafts despite representing South Australia at under-18 level makes appreciate the chance he now has.

“The last year couple of years (was) juggling uni, part-time work and footy training,” he said.

“Being able to focus on my football full-time does make a difference, and it does make you very grateful for where you are.”

One of those focuses, especially during the COVID-19 enforced shutdown has been adding size to his slight 180cm frame.

Close arrived at GMHBA Stadium weighing just 68kgs, but says he is now tipping the scales “in the mid-70s”.

“I did a fair bit of strength work when I went home just trying to put on that extra couple of kilos to be able to play against those bigger bodies,” he said.

“Even since being in the hub, I’ve been able to put on a bit more as well (through) having a bit more time in the gym.

“The availability and the resources are a bit more rather than back in Geelong where we were on that strict schedule with the COVID restrictions.”

Twitter: @tom_king79