When AFL recruiters talk Jarrod Berry, the immediate thought is leadership.
The North Ballarat Rebels skipper by his own admission did not enjoy the season he had hoped following an injury-riddled 2016, but the hard-nosed midfielder is widely-regarded as the draft’s best leader with character beyond his years.
Berry played eight TAC Cup games for the Rebels and three national under-18 championship matches with Vic Country this year.
The Horsham boy, who completed his schooling at Ballarat Clarendon College, was hampered by shoulder and knee issues throughout the season before copping a heavy knock in the qualifying final against Geelong Falcons which resulted in a bruised kidney.
Berry was disappointed his body did not allow him to show his full potential in his draft year, but believes the all-too-frequent lay-offs allowed him to further develop his leadership.
“Obviously you don’t plan to have injuries, but they come as a footballer,” Berry said.
“For me, this season has been disappointing to not show what I feel I can. But I’ve learnt how to deal with injuries, there were a few nasty ones, but you’ve just got to try and improve other areas of your game.
“For me, that leadership has been the biggest improvement this year because I’ve had a bit more of a focus on that because I was sidelined for a long period.”
Berry’s true character was put to the test as he attended the national combine, a little over a month after his kidney injury.
He said it was his personal drive to finish the season on a positive note that led to him winning the 3km time trial and clocking up the equal best score in the beep test.
“I just wanted to finish my season on a good note although it had been disappointing on-field. To come into the combine with a disjointed preparation it was pretty pleasing to get results like that.”
Berry averaged 17 disposals across the TAC Cup season playing in an array of positions.
Berry predominantly played off half-back and through the midfield this season before Rebels coach Gerard FitzGerald gave him an opportunity to develop his craft as a forward.
Standing alongside the likes of Marcus Bontempelli and Patrick Cripps at 191cm, Berry is the prototype of the modern-day midfielder.
However, while Berry believes if he was to find his way to an AFL club next year he would spend time on a half-back flank as he develops.
He sees himself as an inside midfielder who can go forward and be a handful for defences.
“I’m able to play my best footy when I’m in the midfield and then be able to push forward. So that’s what I want to develop into.
“If I do end up getting into the system that half-back role is probably the ideal role for me in the initial couple of seasons, then try and develop myself physically and try and push into the midfield from there.”