AFL draft: Taylor Garner's waiting game is over

THEY say a week is a long time in football, so with that logic a year is an eternity.

Taylor Garner entered the 2011-12 pre-season as a defender who hoped to get a game at TAC Cup level with Dandenong Stingrays.

This week the 18-year-old former Rowville junior player is projected to be a top 30 pick in the AFL draft after a stellar year with the Stingrays and Vic Metro, playing as a forward.

Yet for all the water that has gone under Garner's bridge, the year has flown past and he can't wait for the AFL draft on Thursday's night.

Garner, who split time between football and working as a second-year apprentice plumber, said he couldn't wait to find out what his footballing future holds.

"It's been a bit of the unknown, a pretty exciting sort of time," he said.

"This year has just flown by. I wish I was still out there playing because I only got a handful of Stingray games and a few state matches. But it's also been good that we've got to this point so quickly."

Garner had an exciting sort of year after pushing himself to excel in preseason and secure a place in the Stingrays' best side.

The Endeavour Hills resident was surprised to find himself pushed into the forward line after playing much of 2011 in defence and his junior career in midfield.

"I welcomed it with open arms. I'd never played in the forward line before. At the start of the year I didn't know how to play the role properly and struggled to keep up my defensive pressure, but it came good," he said.

Despite his defensive misgivings, Garner soon proved perfectly suited as a tall forward and his athletic marking and nose for goals led to Vic Country selection.

Garner managed to pop his shoulder out in each of his under-18 championship matches but soldiered on, earning some praise and admiration from those observing from afar.

By the end of the season, he was considered a top-30 draft prospect although his shoulder problems left him needing surgery to repair the problem.

Garner wasn't able to show too much of his physical talents off in the lead-up to the draft due to his shoulder problems but he has sat down with several clubs. "I played a few decent games in the carnival and talking to clubs since then I've got a bit of an insight into what AFL football is like.

"There seems to be a lot of interest in me. I'd have never thought that would happen last year."

The Garner family has had further success this year. Taylor's older brothers Mitch and Damian Garner played in the Rowville Hawks' senior Eastern Football League division 2 premiership.

"I would have loved to get out there with them and play for Rowville but each time we had a week off we were told by our coaches to rest, so it didn't happen," Garner said.

"They were both late developers and they helped me out to become more competitive and to will myself to the ball because I'm the youngest.

"I'm sure it also helped toughen me up because they were always punching on with me."

After his shoulder surgery left him unable to work, Garner looks likely to have to put his plumbing apprenticeship on hold.

But being in the workforce for two years has helped the teenager prepare mentally for AFL football.

"I don't know what to expect if I get to an AFL club.

"But I would think all those trainings and meetings would feel a lot like a long day at work."

■ Leigh Osborne looks to the AFL draft, page 6

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