The Western Bulldogs swung somewhat of a surprise when they selected Charlie Parker in the rookie draft.
Prior to hearing his name read out last Friday, the 24-year-old had spent just one season playing in the SANFL with Sturt following a cricket career which took him to England at the age of 18.
Double Blues coach Marty Mattner says it has been some sort of journey from the cricket pitch to Whitten Oval via Adelaide University and Unley Oval.
“Charlie’s an interesting story,” Mattner said on SEN SA Breakfast.
“He played cricket all year round, a couple of years in England and Australia, and played a bit of amateur league (footy).
“We had his name spoken about and given to us. We said come out and trial with us.
“From his first session when he won our 2km time trial we saw that he had some elite traits, not just for SANFL but for AFL.
“Even (football manager) David Oatey, who is a wise head in footy, started seeing him at training and was like, ‘This kid is going to be good’.”
222-game former Crow and Swan Mattner said it was Parker’s thirst for knowledge and desire to improve himself as a footballer which put him on the radar of the Dogs.
“It was just progression, it was his learning and over pre-season he was great, he asked questions of players and coaches,” Mattner added.
“He wanted to learn and get better and be out doing extras all the time.
“He had that drive and want to get better. He naturally progressed after starting in the reserves and then the league. Unfortunately he got injured, broke his collarbone which finished his season.
“He had some interest mid-season. A few clubs rang up to find out who he was and his background because no one really knew who he was.
“He didn’t play much in the second half of the year but then we thought he might miss out on a rookie. A couple of clubs kept in contact about where he was at.”
Off-season training alongside Sturt alumni - Collingwood pair Brodie Grundy and Ash Johnson and Port Adelaide youngster Jed McEntee - helped prepare and condition Parker for a move to the AFL.
“He’s been training with Brodie Grundy, Jed McEntee and Ash Johnson which has been really good,” said Mattner.
“He’s fully fit (now), so the Bulldogs took a punt on him. He’s an elite runner, really quick, he’s a good kick as well.
“And at 193 (cm) he’s that prototype AFL footballer.”
Parker, who played primarily off half-back and on a wing for Sturt, was taken by the Dogs with pick 17 in last week’s rookie draft.
Ahead of the 2022 season, Mattner also indicated that Sturt expects to sign delisted Port Adelaide defender Jarrod Lienert while confirming the capture of former Sydney rookie Malachy Carruthers.
Image taken by Phil Radoslovich, supplied by Sturt FC.