IF ANYONE knows what Carlton is going to get from new draftee Brooke Vickers, it’s her Oakleigh Chargers premiership coach Jason Davenport.
And if Vickers needs any advice on what it’s like to call IKON Park home, it’ll be former Carlton AFL development coach Jason Davenport.
Speaking to Carlton Media after Vickers was drafted to the Blues last week, Davenport’s praise of the utility couldn’t have been higher.
One suspects that it was a similar conversation to the one he had with Daniel Harford on draft night, as revealed by AFL Media’s Riley Beveridge column on what occurred inside the war room last Tuesday night.
Leaning towards selecting Vickers with their third pick on the night, Harford couldn’t have been more sure of who the Blues were bringing into the Club.
“I had a good chat to ‘Harf’ leading into it — she’s a star,” Davenport said.
“She can come across as quite shy, but she’s very competitive and ‘white-line fever’ is almost the term I’d use with her. I’m a massive fan of the way she plays — she brings such energy and positivity to any environment, which is such a valuable addition.
“She sets really high standards on herself, she wants to be the best she can be. We all go about that in different ways, but it’s her competitive nature and ability and willingness to work in-game which was as good as I saw across the board in the NAB League.”
After three pre-seasons at Carlton in a development coaching role, Davenport took on the role as senior coach of both NAB League sides at the Oakleigh Chargers.
This season, the Chargers went onto obtain premiership success in the NAB League Girls Grand Final, with Vickers a key part of that.
And the man commonly known as ‘Juice’ inside the four walls of IKON Park will be keeping a keen eye on Vickers, who he believes will continue going from strength to strength under Harford’s tutelage.
“I’m really invested in my girls program and having that success means you can advocate for them. The thing for me with Brooke is her ability to play her role at a really high level: the flexibility and coachability piece is huge,” he said.
“Her upside in regards to going to a program where she’ll have the ball in her hands are and kicking more from a skillset perspective — her growth is going to be there for everyone to see.
“She’s going to get opportunities to grow as a player, which is really exciting. And her mindset and the way she embraces team football in really difficult positions on the ground was a clear indication that her football knowledge is at a really high level.”
Vickers was an ever-present member of Oakleigh’s defensive setup in the first half of the season, but when Davenport and his coaching staff identified a breakdown in offence, Vickers was the player they decided to roll up from half back and onto a wing.
Playing the role widely regarded as the toughest in football for the final six weeks of the season including a finals campaign, Vickers flourished, further heightening her reputation among the draft pool.
“We had a great group this year and she naturally became one of our leaders because of her willingness to play a role,” he said.
“We knew her natural characteristics meant she’d work tirelessly to support the defence: she cares about other people and on the wing, her willingness to help out and support as a winger to be the first one back was critical.
“Her ability to keep us connected between our back half and forward half when we moved her to the wing was when we really started to build some good synergy and play our best footy.”
Had things played out a little differently, Vickers’ footballing talents could’ve been lost if she persisted with the bat and ball of cricket.
However, Davenport believes that it was the rough and tumble of the code that meant Vickers is exactly where she’s meant to be — and cricket’s loss is the Game Changers’ gain.
“There’s no doubt that she’s an athlete,” he said.
“The competitive element that football provides was probably what tipped her over the edge. The ability to crash into packs and launch at balls in the air as well as defend aggressively was something she really embraced: it’s probably where footy has captured her in the last six months.
“Her natural personality is one of high energy, and being completely invested in her team and her people. She might come across as shy for those who meet her for the first time, but her competitive nature speaks for itself once she crosses that line.”