Year 12 student, Jack Ginnivan, will find out on December 9—which also happens to be his birthday—whether he’s been drafted to an AFL club.

He hopes to tread the path of Richmond star player, Dustin Martin.

“I know Dustin and have a lot of respect for him,” Jack says. “Right now I’m trying not to think too much about December 9. It will either be the best or the worst birthday I’ve ever had!”

Jack’s journey from little kid kicking a footy around the backyard, to potential AFL player, has also been steep learning curve. He’s learnt that raw talent is not enough; success requires work—hard work.

If he could go back and give that little kid some advice what would it be?

“I would definitely say ‘you can work harder than this’!”

Reflecting back over the last six years, Jack says that between the ages of 12 and 15 he didn’t work hard enough at either footy or school.

“I thought it would all come as easy as it always had,” Jack explains. “Then in Year 10 I had Chris Hogan as my mentor. We had lots of conversations about life decisions and becoming a good person.”

The core of Jack’s talented support-crew is his family. Fortunately they all love football. His dad, Craig, used to play and is now a coach. His mum and his sisters are into netball and a trip to Melbourne for an AFL game is everyone’s idea of a great weekend.

“I guess you could say I was born into it,” Jack laughs.

Jack joined an under-11 team aged six years. In fact seven-and-a-half was the minimum for young players, but with his family’s agreement, and to his great delight, his age was listed as seven.

“I was big for my age so it was never a problem,” Jack says with a laugh.

That year was a turning point for Jack for another reason: his team, Hawthorn, won the Grand Final.

Meanwhile, Jack and his dad were often out in the backyard with Craig passing on tips and skills fundamental to building a good footballer.

“I got constant feedback from him,” Jack says. “He was a tough coach and harsh critic which I’m now so grateful for. He also taught me what to expect from coaches, trainers and managers.”

In Year 9 Jack got a call from a Pioneers coach to say he’d been selected in a group of 100 footballers. There would be two squads. The first 50 would be the best and the other 50 would become the second squad.

“I wanted so badly to be in that top 50 and I was so disappointed when I didn’t make the cut,” Jack says.

The following year he made the grade with the under-16 Pioneers and played in the VLine Cup which took him all over regional Victoria—and saw him earn a best on ground.

Jack started to take his personal fitness more seriously, going to the gym twice a week. He also took a serious look at his diet.

These days he doesn’t eat the sweet stuff he used to pig out on and he’s experiencing the benefits of choosing an apple or carrot over a biscuit; a healthy lunch rather than take-away.

Favourite food?

“Stir fry or my Mum’s nine-vegetable lasagna with spinach on the side,” he says.

In his final year at BSE, 180 young players vied to fill just 45 places with the Pioneers under-18s. This time Jack was selected. He played almost every game.

Despite the impact of coronavirus leaving Jack, like most footballers, off the field this year, there’s been plenty happening in the background.

Alongside his fitness training—gym, boxing, skipping, bike riding—and footy skills, Jack has been interviewed via Zoom by twelve AFL clubs in preparation for the draft.

“AFL clubs are not just looking for talent, although obviously that’s important,” Jack explains. “They want the right mindset and asked me a lot about my family and my life experiences.

“I think they want players who have really good support networks and a life outside of footy. I’ve got that. One group of friends don’t even talk about footy,” he says.

On top of this, the looming VCE exams are a powerful distraction from focusing solely on the draft.

He also takes time to be involved in wider issues. He talks openly about how affected he was by sports stars who took a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign. Curiously, Jack also has one fingernail painted blue. It’s not a random thing. It’s part of a movement drawing attention to child abuse.

“The idea is that people ask you why you have your fingernail painted and it gives you a chance to remind them that child abuse is still a big problem in our society,” he explains.

After the many weeks of lockdown, Jack couldn’t be happier to be back at school. As someone who learns best face-to-face, he discovered keeping motivated at home was a constant challenge.

Reflecting on his time at BSSC overall, Jack says he chose the college because he felt it had a more laid-back culture, and feels it’s been the right choice for him.

In Year 11 his favourite subject was PE—not surprising for an aspiring footballer. The fact that Trav Matheson was also his footy coach only added to their rapport.

This year, however, Legal Studies gets his vote. If he’s not able to pursue his football dreams, Jack’s considering a career in the police force.

His hot study tip is to make the most of class time. And for those, like him, who are pursuing a career in sport, he advises to do as much work as you can at school to reduce the homework load.