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My journey to the draft

Pick 45 James Worpel Check out some of the highlights of one of our newest Hawks, James Worpel from the Geelong Falcons.

My draft experience - as told by James Worpel


It’s hard to put a finger on that moment when I let myself think, ‘yeah this could happen, I could get drafted’. I don’t know if I ever fully did; letting myself think it meant there was a chance I’d wind up disappointed in the end.

I finally let myself believe it when Andrew Dillon said, “with Pick 45… Hawthorn has selected James Worpel.”



I had an interesting draft year. If you’d told me at the start of 2017 I’d make the Vic Country squad, be named captain, play all four games, earn an MVP award, and then win a premiership with my Geelong teammates, I’d have laughed at you. Even now, it still feels very surreal. 

But that said, I expected more out of my own individual performance. Had I done enough for recruiters to recognise me? There were so many insanely talented footballers all hoping to get drafted too, what made me special? 

The interviews with AFL clubs started ramping up after the Under 18 championship carnival. Of all the sides, there were two clubs in particular that seemed to show the most interest in me. Neither of these clubs were Hawthorn. I spoke to both twice; they visited me at my home, and also arranged interviews at the National Draft Combine. If I was to get my shot at an AFL career, I felt there was a 50-50 chance of where it would be.


I was asleep when Hawthorn first approached me. 

We’d had a big day at the combine and I had no meetings planned for the afternoon, so I thought I might have a little nap. That’s when one of the Hawks’ recruiters tapped me on the shoulder and said “do you have a spare 15 minutes?”.

I guess that’s where it all started. 

Read: Worpel joins the Hawks


Draft night was a big deal for my whole family. I’m the second youngest of nine kids, so I had my parents, my five sisters, my three brothers, their partners, my next door neighbours and a few friends all gathered around the TV at our home in Bannockburn. It was amazing to have a whole room full of support, but there was still that little feeling… What if this doesn’t happen? Mixed with all those other thoughts; if it does – when? And where? 

The two clubs that I’d had numerous conversations with held eight picks inside the top 40 between them. After what felt like forever, those eight picks had all come and gone, and the nerves were peaking.

Finally, it was Hawthorn’s turn to enter the draft. I hardly remember hearing it, I just remember a whole lot of cheering, hugs and tears – from both me and my family. 

My brother, who has probably had the most impact on my football career, turned to me and said “you’ve done it”.

It was an incredible feeling. 


It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind since. 

Cam (Hawthorn’s player development manager) rang me first, probably five minutes after my name had been read out, so I was still in a bit of disbelief. Then, messages from all the players started coming through.

Now I’m in the club, and while it’s all still very surreal, it’s time to work. 

Time to set the standard for myself, and prove to my teammates that I’m a hard worker that would do anything to play footy.

Time to forge a career in the brown and gold. 


The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs