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School before draft for Stephens

Geelong Falcons co-captain Cooper Stephens receives his premiership medal. (krockfootball.com.au Image/Marcel Berens)

ON the night the AFL National Draft is being held later this month, Cooper Stephens will be oblivious to his football future.

Instead he’ll be focusing on his academic achievements, celebrating with his Trinity College Year 12 classmates at their graduation ceremony in Colac.

He’ll be relying on either his mother or manager Will Thursfield to relay him the news whether he’s been snapped up by an AFL club or not.

The Geelong Falcons co-captain remains hopeful his name will be called out.

He’s spoken to half-a-dozen clubs this season and Falcons regional manager Michael Turner said he’s right up there among the best rebounding defenders in the TAC Cup this season.

“He’s a great runner and uses the ball really well,” Turner said. “Were hopeful he’ll go late draft or as a rookie.”

Stephens averaged just under 18 touches, four tackles and three marks in 15 appearances for the Falcons in their premiership campaign.

He had a season-high 30 disposals and seven marks in their preliminary final win over Dandenong Stingrays and was important in the second half of the grand final against Sandringham.

His disposal under pressure and ability to pin-point a teammate is a feature of his game.

He missed the first six games while he recovered from a leg fracture suffered in a pre-season intra-club game and, while named in Vic Country’s squad for the national championships, never received a call-up.

The Falcons were impressed by the way Stephens handled those setbacks and his leadership qualities throughout the entire season.

The 18-year-old then did his draft chances no harm at last month’s State Combine, finishing fifth in the running vertical jump (87cm) and equal second in the endurance test (Level 21.4).

Stephens was happy with his results and hopes those, coupled with his consistent performances down back for the Falcons this season, makes him an appealing prospect.

“It gives me a sense of confidence putting in a good effort at the Combine,” Stephens told krockfootball.com.au

“You do your best and see if clubs take note of that or not. Being in top 10 for two categories I was pretty happy with those efforts and hopefully it will work out.”

If he doesn’t find an AFL home, Stephens is likely to play at VFL level in 2018.

Stephens finished seventh in this year’s Falcons best and fairest and was High Performance Manager Matt Critchley’s pick for his annual award handed out on presentation night.

Stephens credited Critchley for the role he played in helping him recover ahead of schedule from his fractured leg and maintain his fitness levels.

“You feel primed after doing all the pre-season, but I don’t think I lost any nick while I was injured,” Stephens said.

“I probably worked harder than I did in the summer and that’s why I played so well. My body feels great at the moment so full credit to Matt for getting me to where I could be.”

Twitter: @GreenBradley