Leslie looks to his moment in the sun

WHILE he had been touted as an AFL national draft prospect following consecutive Vic Country campaigns, Jack Leslie wasn’t expecting to be taken in the first round on Thursday night.

Leslie, who played most of his junior football with Nambrok-Newry Junior Football Club before spending two years at Gippsland Power, was selected by the Gold Coast Suns with their end of round one compensation selection (pick 20), originally acquired from the Adelaide Crows for their loss of Nathan Bock in 2010.

“I’m definitely excited,” Leslie said.

“I wasn’t really expecting it, I was just waiting.

“I didn’t really expect to go to be honest, thought if I do it would be late, or rookie (draft) next week, so it was pretty surprising to be called out early.

“We were just watching it at home, had close friends and family around.

“Everyone just started jumping around, and there was my name.”

Leslie, who started his football career with Auskick at the age of five, said it was exciting to share the moment with some of his premiership winning mates.

“I started playing under 10s when I was six, played for Nambrok, played for them until top age under 16s, won a few flags on the way.

“(At) Sale, I played six games on permit in the under 16s, so I played with them, won two flags, one for Nambrok, one for Sale through the top age under 16s.

“I went on to play Power in that year too, and Vic Country, and then I ended up playing Power and Vic Country as a 17 year old and then again this year, so I haven’t had any opportunity to play for Sale again.

“There was probably about eight of us Nambrok boys from the under 16s grand final here, we all watched it together.”

Leslie left for his new club on Sunday, and said he was looking forward to meeting players such as Brownlow medalist Gary Ablett Jnr.

“I think that’s going to be pretty daunting at first, it just doesn’t seem real, but I suppose the next couple of weeks it will start to sink in,” he said.

“I leave Sunday, and get up there and start training, just a light week (starting) on Monday.

“All the players have gone over to Arizona for their camp, so it’s just me and the two other boys that have been drafted and also there are two boys that are on the injury (list), Jesse Lonergan and Rory (Thompson).

“I think they get back (from Arizona) late next week, so will probably meet them in a week or so.”

With a strong pre-season under his belt, Suns’ recruiters expect that Leslie could be striving to play AFL football in 2014.

“I’ve been doing a bit of training at the moment, so hopefully it goes alright,” Leslie said.

“It’s a bit of a step up but it should be good.

“I think they are a good up and coming team, (that’s the) environment up there, I think it’s pretty exciting.”

Playing most of his career as a ruckman, Leslie was thrown a challenge in the Powers’ 10 point loss to the Eastern Ranges this year. Moved to a key defensive post, Leslie took on and defeated his opponents as well as backing himself to win possessions and use them to generate attacking play for the side.

It’s a similar role to what Suns’ recruiting staff expect he could play.

Suns’ list and strategy manager Scott Clayton said the club saw the 199cm Leslie as a strong and combative defender with a huge work rate and massive up-side in conditioning.

“We think Jack is a future tall defender, and when you find them you have to take them,” Clayton said.

“We really like his attributes; he’s a grunt, aggressive defender and is unbelievably quick.”