Sandringham Dragons product Luke Nankervis had anything but your typical AFL draft journey.
While most drafted juniors are earmarked at an early age and groomed within various academies and under-age programs, Nankervis instead battled away in a local junior competition.
Having made a name for himself for Bentleigh junior football club in Melbourne’s South Metro Junior Football League, a then 16-year-old Nankervis was unsure why he wasn’t drawing the attention of his local NAB league affiliate Sandringham.
Little did the wingman know, he was well and truly on the Dragons’ radar without him ever knowing.
In an interview with SEN, Nankervis revealed that it was actually an oversight from his end that was costing him opportunities to advance his footballing dream.
“I’ve had a lot more of a harder journey than most others,” Nankervis explained.
“They (Sandringham) sent an email inviting me to under 16s Dragons and it went to my junk mail, which I didn’t use and was full of random emails.
“I’ve always wanted to get into the Dragons, I just didn’t know how and one night I had a dream about it, so I checked my emails and saw that they’d actually invited me to under 16s and it (the email) was sitting in the junk folder.
“It was there from 2018 and I checked it at the start of 2020, it was well over a year.”
Upon realising that the opportunity he’d been hoping for was sitting at his fingertips for more than 12 months, Nankervis keenly replied to the Dragons, explaining the unfortunate situation and asking if he could take up the long-expired offer.
“Basically, I just emailed them back saying what happened and that it went somewhere I didn’t use and that I was really keen to get down and have a train,” he continued.
“I was playing for Bentleigh junior footy club, it was after my last year which was under 16s.
“They said to me, ‘You can come for two weeks, and you might be invited back next year’.
“So, I obviously took that with both hands, I had a massive crack and made the squad as an under-ager.”
After making the Dragons squad as a bottom-ager, Nankervis thought 2020 would be the year he’d finally announce himself – that was until the COVID pandemic pushed back his start again.
“I was there for a few weeks (in the pre-season), had nothing to lose so I had a crack and made the playing squad,” he said.
“Then COVID hit so I just got to work, hit the gym and tried to improve everything,”
With his Dragons debut pushed back a year, Nankervis says no one externally knew who he was until the first practice game of last season.
“No one knew who I was until the practice game in 2021, but it was always in the back of my mind that it (getting drafted) was a bit of a possibility,” he said.
“I’ve always just loved playing footy, and I was putting my best foot forward, if it happened, it happened.
“I played all the games I could and now I’m here.”
The speedy outside player would go on to play eight games for the Dragons in the COVID-affected 2021 campaign, averaging 13.5 disposals, 3.4 marks and an impressive 5.4 tackles per game.
That output was enough to convince Adelaide to pounce on him at pick No. 2 in the pre-season draft, and Nankervis says that the Crows were always the club that were the keenest on him.
“From the 2021 first practice match they (Adelaide) saw they were pretty keen,” he said.
“It was really from the start that I got their attention.
“They were happy with me trending upwards throughout and then I had a pretty good game against Calder Cannons where I had 12 tackles, which is something they love at the Crows – players that play their role and are hard at it.”
While Nankervis knew the Crows held more interest than any other club, he says he didn’t know that he was going to be picked until his name was officially read out.
“No one really told me until after (I was picked),” he said.
“It was a pretty stressful two nights.”
While most Victorian draftees would prefer to stay put at home, Nankervis says Adelaide’s initial interest in him meant that his heart was always set on a move interstate.
“I was always keen on it (being picked by Adelaide),” he said.
“Hamish (Ogilvie) and Steve (McCrystal) the recruiters are absolute ripping blokes, they were keen on me and always spoke highly of me which is good.
“I always said I’d rather go to an interstate club for the new experience, and to sort of create my own story.”