AFL 2024: North Melbourne young gun Colby McKercher’s diary
North Melbourne selected Colby McKercher with the No. 2 pick in last month’s AFL national draft and within 72 hours the speedy left-footer had completed a major relocation from Launceston to Melbourne.
McKercher, 18, has moved in with the family of Kangaroos legend Brent Harvey as he navigates the leap to the elite level.
The Tasmanian teen had long looked forward to a move interstate to launch his career, and now has his chance at Arden Street with a rigorous pre-season schedule ahead.
Take a look behind the scenes as McKercher keeps a diary of his first fortnight as an AFL player.
Friday November 24
Friday was my first day at the club. Had a 6.15am wake up to get into the club by about 7.45am.
After getting drafted I went home to pack my things and then moved in with the Harveys.
Their place is a bit of a way out in the northeast suburbs, but it’s a really nice spot. “Boomer” and his family have been really good to me, they’ve been looking after me really well.
Boomer’s just a really nice guy and moving in hasn’t felt intimidating at all. He’s been great, and cooks a really good meal as well.
It’s about a 45-minute drive to and from training, and I go in with Cooper (Harvey) – I’m getting to know him really well.
I’ve got my licence but I won’t bring my car over until after Christmas – the traffic here is crazy, it’s taking a fair bit of getting used to when there’s basically no traffic back in Launceston.
Aside from that I haven’t found it that much of an adjustment to be honest. I’ve got some family here in Melbourne and I’ve been here plenty of times so I feel pretty comfortable.
It’s good having Cooper – he’s been showing me the ropes. Obviously he’s been in the system for a year which is really helpful.
We’ve already played a lot of golf and table tennis at home too. He’s a really nice guy and one of my good mates at the club.
We got into the club but the first-year boys didn’t get up to heaps, just testing and stuff, and we got taken through what kind of work we’ll be doing over pre-season.
You meet a lot of people – it’s really different being in a club with so many different people working behind the scenes.
We eased into training and gave a read of our base numbers in the gym – power output and strength – so there’s something to work off over the pre-season.
Sunday November 26
Day off today to watch the girls play in the AFLW prelim against Adelaide. It’s pretty cool to see them playing finals and how excited everyone is around the club.
While we were watching at Ikon Park we had people coming up and asking for autographs and photos.
I was actually shopping this weekend and three teenagers came up and asked me for a photo.
It’s good, I like it – there are so many passionate people around footy and I feel like it’s good for players to interact with them.
I think about how it was when I was a kid, and how I would want the players to treat me … if I can give them the time of day, then it’s nice.
It’s the same with the media, there’s been a lot of extra attention but I’m comfortable with it, for sure, and it’s all been positive.
What comes with playing footy is attention, people are going to want to talk to you.
Everyone wants to play to the best of their ability and play good football, and if you start getting recognised for that you shouldn’t really be complaining.
It’s kind of a blessing I guess, it’s just what comes with performing well.
Wednesday November 29
We’re still getting managed pretty carefully, the first-year boys, so we haven’t joined in all the fitness stuff but we’re in most of the drills when the balls come out.
It’s been really enjoyable, but I’m still getting used to adjusting to having the full program for the day, and knowing where you need to be at what time.
I’m probably not the most organised person, but it’s all laid out for us in a timetable, so I’ve just got to look and see where I need to be and when.
You’ve got to be really good at time management, and I’m learning that as I go – it’s quite a change from back home.
Everyone was back at training before we got to the club, so I’ve met everyone now.
If I was nervous to meet anyone, it was probably Luke Davies-Uniacke, because he’s just a star player of the club who I’ve watched a lot of over the last few years.
Harry Sheezel as well, just the way he dominated in his first year … those two are players I really look up to and it’s pretty cool to be becoming friends with them and hanging out around the club every day.
It’s very different to a week ago where I felt a bit nervous trying to start a conversation or say g’day.
I’m really liking coming in and spending the day at the club – even today when I don’t really have stuff on in the afternoon, I’ll probably stick around a bit more, hang out with some of the boys and do some recovery.
I don’t really have a social life in Melbourne at the moment, so I’m just enjoying the club and the new routine of waking up early and getting in to Arden Street every day.
Talking up and helping to lead during the drills is something I like to do. With those things I feel like I have pretty high confidence and self-belief, so usually it’s something I find a bit easier to do than others maybe.
But at the moment it’s just about taking a step back and learning first – I can’t really teach or direct people when I don’t know where I’m meant to be myself.
Once I’m comfortable and understand the game plan, I’ll feel more ready to show some leadership on the ground.
All the drills are pretty similar to what I’ve done before in junior and rep footy but just the intent, the intensity and the skill level, that has all doubled, I reckon.
You’ve got to be really switched on and on your toes … there’s no time to be looking at the buildings around you and taking everything in, I’m learning you have to be on all the time when you’re out there.
Friday December 1
It’s summer but half the time I’ve spent here it’s been raining, cold and cloudy. We’re headed to the Gold Coast for our camp on Sunday so it’ll be nice to get out in the heat and spend some time at the beach with the boys.
The physical side of the camp isn’t something I’m worried about – we’re still getting eased into it a little bit more and we’re not getting smashed with a huge training load straight away.
You’ve just got to have trust in the people that run the programs, our strength and conditioning and high-performance team that they are doing the right thing by managing us and slowly building up the training loads.
Monday December 4
We’re up on the Gold Coast, most of us younger boys flew in at about midday yesterday.
We all watched the AFLW grand final together, it was looking really good early but unfortunately the girls lost.
This morning we went out to the Southport Sharks facility for a session, and it was a pretty hot one. I was knackered after.
When we were pushing through the running it was really Cam Zurhaar who got the boys going.
His energy was really good to get us up and about between the sets, and Jy Simpkin is obviously a great leader of our group as well and kept everyone up and about.
Lucky for us first-years the boys finished off with a “six-minute blowout”, like a maximal effort run for that time, but we only had to watch it, which was probably a blessing in disguise because it looked pretty painful.
It looks like we’ll still be managed like that until after Christmas, but the days are still really hard and challenging.
The early wake-ups, when they stack up every day and you’re not used to it, become a little more difficult to adjust to.
After lunch we did a bit of gym and then finished our afternoon program. I was really tired and in bed by 9pm.
Wednesday December 6
This morning we had a quick breakfast and went back to Southport for a skills session, a lot of kicking and handball drills and not really contact.
We probably ran about 6km over the session … it’s a bit more enjoyable when you get to have the footy out.
After that finished most of us went down to the beach for a swim. It’s been great having that to relax and enjoy some sun.
“Clarko” organised a team session at the beach yesterday and it was more just about having a bit of a laugh together. Everyone joined in with some paddleboarding – it was funny seeing blokes flailing around and falling off.
Clarko has been really good with us first-year boys, just making us feel comfortable and really getting around us at training, chatting to us when we walk through the halls.
Everyone has felt really welcome at the club, he’s been great.
After lunch today we went straight back into our afternoon program – on the camp that has been gym, physio treatment and film work over about three hours.
We review footage from training mostly with the coaches and it’s just about getting our heads around the game plan and how it looks.
I’ve done a lot of work with (new assistant coach) Jed Adcock. I’ve looked at a few game plan-type things with him to try to get across that sort of stuff.
He has really good insight and looks at the game well … he’s a ripper bloke, he cares for the whole playing group and is really passionate.
He’s gone into a lot of detail explaining the different roles to me and what they require, and it’s been great to work with him closely on that while I’m a bit unsure.
Individually, I like to look at some of my footage as well, obviously being in a new environment there’s a lot to take out of it.
Getting in with the coaches and looking at what I could be doing better and what I can learn from a session has been really beneficial in the first couple of weeks – I’ve done a lot of that stuff with (development coach) Jarrod Lienert.
Thursday December 7
We had a day off today, it was really nice to get a good sleep-in after a big week of training.
I headed down to the beach again, had some breakfast with the boys and just chilled out around Surfers Paradise. I spent the afternoon doing some extra recovery.
We’ve been splitting up into bus groups for trips to the beach and Southport to train – I’ve been put with a lot of defenders: Harry Sheezel, Riley Hardeman, Wil Dawson and Jackson Archer.
Griffin Logue is our bus driver. I don’t want to stitch anyone up but there’s some funny things going on in there, and we’ve had some good singalongs.
Logue was in charge of tunes at the start of the trip but he’s just started flicking it off to whoever is in the passenger seat.
I’m feeling the pressure … the boys won’t be happy if you whack on something weird.
I’ll play anything really. I’m all about versatility when it comes to music.
Saturday December 9
Just leaving the camp now – yesterday ended up being a lot of match sim and probably not as brutal with the running as what I was preparing for.
I’m playing a bit everywhere in the match sim but mostly focusing on the defensive stuff at the moment down in the backline.
It’s always good to get the balls out, I’ve really enjoyed the match play.
The body is feeling really good, not that sore to be honest after a big week, so I’ll be ready to go for next week.
One week to go and then we have two and a half weeks off for Christmas which is pretty nice – I’ll go back to Tassie for a bit.
Join Colby, and sign up as a North Melbourne member for 2024 at membership.nmfc.com.au
Originally published as AFL 2024: North Melbourne young gun Colby McKercher’s diary
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