Sport

Dreaming of being a Lion

by
November 24, 2016

Keeping it in the family: Benalla's Harry Morrison is hoping to join cousin and Brisbane Lions star Tom Rockcliff in the AFL.

While some players are hesitant about moving from Victoria to play AFL, travelling interstate is no issue for Harry Morrison who is keen to join cousin Tom Rockliff at the Brisbane Lions.

‘‘I’d love to go up there and play with him, but that’s just been the dream of mine ever since he went up there,’’ the Benalla teenager said.

Rockliff and Morrison were close growing up despite the eight-year age difference.

With Morrison’s brother Charlie and Tom’s sibling James thrown into the mix there was plenty of competition taking place.

‘‘We played hours and hours of backyard cricket and kicked the footy nearly every night playing backyard sport. He has a brother and I have a brother who are similar ages ... There’s a bit of a 10-year age gap (between us all), but we’re all pretty much brothers I guess,’’ he said.

‘‘We grew up together.’’

Having shared so much throughout their lives other than just football, Morrison, 18, said the conversations between the cousins rarely turned to footy.

But during his draft year, Rockliff has been a valuable source of information about forging a career in the AFL.

‘‘We kind of keep our conversations about family, but we have spoken throughout the year about it and he’s sort of good to talk to and he always has good advice.’’

The Morrison family has long been entwined at Benalla Football Club.

The Saints were one of the clubs Morrison’s dad Darby played at, he was also a member of Euroa’s 1990 premiership side, while Charlie forged his way into the senior side this year.

Morrison won a grand final with the under-18 group last season, having only played half a year after returning from a knee injury.

The Murray Bushrangers defender required a reconstruction after damaging his knee in an under-16 Vic Country trial match in 2014 and was disappointed to miss the next 14 months of football.

‘‘I had some bad luck through injury and that was pretty devastating. I had to try and stay positive, but obviously it was a crucial part of my footy journey, so it was pretty frustrating to miss that whole period,’’ he said.

But it was making representative sides that started to plant the dream in Morrison’s head that he might be able to take the dream further than just playing in the Goulburn Valley Football League.

‘‘A couple of years ago when I started to make some state sides, I thought ‘maybe I could give this a red-hot crack and see where we end up’, so it’s sort of an exciting period now,’’ he said.

Morrison has sparked plenty of interest among clubs that like the way he uses his run to rebound the ball off the half-back line.

As a result of at least five AFL teams wanting to see more of him, Morrison was invited to the AFL combine where he tested exceptionally well.

Whether it was endurance, sprint, agility or accuracy Morrison impressed as selectors watched on from the stands at Etihad Stadium.

He scored 25 out of 30 points on the goal-kicking test, topped only by a perfect score from Western Australian Sam Powell-Pepper.

Recording 14.12 on the Beep Test and registering the fourth fastest time weaving through poles in the agility test meant no weakness was on show.

Even Morrison did not expect to fare so well.

‘‘I was a little bit surprised at how I went considering my last game of footy was only six days before I went because I played in the All Stars game,’’ he said.

‘‘But considering the preparation I had I was pretty surprised to put up some good numbers and I was happy with how I went overall.’’

Like many supremely talented juniors, Morrison was a midfielder at Benalla before the Bushies found him well-suited to a spot on the half-back line.

But a back issue would have him again miss a sizeable portion of this year.

‘‘I missed a chunk with a back injury which was another frustrating injury. I sort of had a good start to the year and after my injury I built into the finals and had a pretty serviceable finals series,’’ he said.

Morrison was more than adequate in the finals having a major hand in ensuring the Bushies reached their first grand final since 2008.

While they were defeated by Sandringham in the big dance, Morrison said there was a great feeling around the club.

‘‘It was a good team effort to get to the Bushies’ first final since 2008,’’ he said.

‘‘I think there were some trainers that had been around (since then) and you hear the stories, but you never really think it could happen until it sort of does and it was a really exciting period.

‘‘Everyone was up and about for the finals and sort of felt that there was something special in the group.’’

He is held in high regard by trainers at Murray as an emerging leader following his top age year in the TAC Cup.

‘‘On the track I’m pretty vocal, but in the change rooms I’m a bit quieter and laid back, but out on the track I try and lead by example especially with the younger kids.’’

Since playing in the grand final in late September Morrison has taken a break from football.

He said he had not picked up a footy in a few weeks, enjoying his last days as a normal teenager before being thrust into the limelight of an AFL career.

‘‘I’ve had a full-on last month or two. I’ve turned 18, had exams, got my licence, so I’ve had a few other things to keep my mind occupied,’’ he said.

‘‘In the lead up to the draft the closer it gets the more I think about it as much as I try not to, but it is exciting more than it is nerve-racking.’’

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