NORTH Ballarat coach Gerard FitzGerald remembers like it was yesterday the day he sat down with Nick Maxwell at his Ocean Grove home before the 2002 VFL season.
Maxwell had been overlooked in the AFL national draft despite impressing with Geelong Falcons in the TAC Cup under-18.
Osteitis pubis was the sticking point with him, with no AFL club prepared to take a punt on the young player.
FitzGerald said he made the trip with Roosters football manager Garry Fletcher, meeting Maxwell and his parents about the possibility of joining the Roosters.
“We’d heard his preference was study in Ballarat,” FitzGerald said.
Maxwell was also in the sights of several SANFL clubs, but with sports management and sports science courses available at the University of Ballarat, the Roosters won the race for his services.
FitzGerald said North Ballarat was well aware that it would take a while for Maxwell to become fit enough to play.
And it did.
Maxwell’s body gradually responded to a rehabilitation program and, after spending the early part of the season in the reserves, he broke into senior ranks.
He played 10 games – enough to be judged the club’s best senior first-year player – in a season where North Ballarat won just five games and finished 14th of 16 teams.
Maxwell also did enough to catch a Collingwood talent spotter’s eye – attracting a call from the Magpies’ recruiting manager, Noel Judkins.
“He was a delight to coach,” FitzGerald said.
“He was conscientious, diligent.”
FitzGerald said Maxwell had a great appetite for the game and had an immediate impact.
He said the fact that Maxwell had consistently got the best out of himself throughout his career left no doubt he would be great as a coach if he chose to go down that path.
“He’s already shown what a great leader he is,” FitzGerald said.