“This time last year Lachie Langford liked the idea of playing for Hawthorn, but was not sure how it could happen, given he had simply not ever played much football. This time four months ago he was even less certain, having torn ankle ligaments, suffered a stress fracture after being kneed in the back and played only five games for Melbourne Grammar. “There was only one club that would ever have drafted me,” he said, “and even Hawthorn had hardly seen me.”
The Hawks were watching for a reason – Langford’s last name – but needed to be sure of a number of things before calling his name with their third choice in Wednesday’s rookie draft. First they had to be convinced of his talent and that was difficult, given all of the issues above. But in an early-season game against Xavier College he did well enough for Graham Wright, the club’s list manager, that to have his interest was piqued, taking a couple of nice marks, kicking the ball well and running hard from start to finish.
The club sought extra match vision from the school – happy for people to think it was because they wanted to watch more of Ed Vickers-Willis, a second-round draft pick last week – and had Langford out to the club for a couple of week days in August so that their medical, conditioning and coaching staff could spend a bit of time with him and get a sense of his potential.
They all liked what they saw, which meant another few things had to happen. Hawthorn chose not to nominate Langford as a father-son selection – even as a pre-nominated rookie – because it didn’t want to encourage other clubs to look at and start researching him. It also wanted to be sure that it didn’t commit to choosing him if that meant overlooking another, more certain prospect. “If we were picking him,” said Wright, “it had to be with the right pick. But our guys were happy with what they saw. “He’s grown about five centimetres in the last 12 months, so we think he’ll continue to grow, he’s got a good tank, his speed is OK, he has long arms, he’s strong overhead. He’s athletic, and he’s the sort of kid who wants to achieve, with whatever he’s doing. Looking at him, there was just something there.”
From there, Langford had to decide what he wanted to do. He had always wanted to play for Hawthorn, his desire growing stronger as he watched his brother Will claim his spot in the side, and when he went to the MCG to watch the club win this year’s premiership. But he is also academic, and wanted to finish his final school year with no distractions. In the end, he waited until the day after his last exam – the day draft nominations were due – to drop his form into the AFL offices.
“It wasn’t a really hard decision. I’d always had the dream, but in the past two years as I’ve gotten older and gained a greater awareness of how hard it is to get to AFL level, I thought it was unlikely and I was just not expecting it,” Langford said. “I was hardly playing, I wasn’t sure how they could have assessed me, I’d only done those two sessions at the club and because of my injury history I’d barely played, so it was something I never expected to have to make a decision on.
“My parents wanted to make sure I finished school off without being distracted by footy talk, they’ve always had my best interests at heart, and that was something I wanted to do as well. I still do want to study next year, but it’s every kid’s dream to be drafted and the only thing I had to think about was whether I thought I was ready to do it mentally and physically. I was always going to decide I was, and now that I have, I’m going to put everything that I have into it.”
Grand final day was always in the back of his mind . “Watching William play this year, and succeed, and entrench himself in the team was very good to see, and it made me think that maybe I can do it too,” Langford said. “I started to think seriously about it just as he started to come into his own, and then watching Hawthorn go on to win the grand final was far-and-away the best week of my life. I can’t think of anything I want more now than to go in there and work hard and do everything I can to fulfil my potential as a player. I’m very lucky that I have the chance to do that.”
The Age 3/12/14