The Courier

Meet the GWV Rebel set to be the first pick in the AFL Draft

Aaron Cadman's breakout season has caught the attention of all AFL club recruiters. Picture by Luke Hemer
Aaron Cadman's breakout season has caught the attention of all AFL club recruiters. Picture by Luke Hemer

The GWS Giants traded up to secure the first pick in the 2022 AFL Draft for one reason: Greater Western Victoria Rebels key forward Aaron Cadman.

Cadman booted a league-best 34 goals for the Rebels in what was a break-out NAB League season that exceeded all expectations, winning the Adam Goodes Trophy as the Rebels best-and-fairest player.

The Darley junior has shot up projected draft boards this year and looks destined to be the first name called on Monday night, but despite the hype Cadman is remaining relatively reserved.

"I'm feeling good. I've done all that I can really so I just have to sit around and wait for now," Cadman said.

"I am a little bit nervous but I'm more excited than anything just to hopefully have a new beginning at an AFL club."

Cadman's openness to playing interstate is one of the reasons why the Giants were so eager to secure his services.

"It (the Giants' interest) is exciting but at the end of the day the club picks who they want to pick," Cadman said.

"If it is the Giants then I'm going to give it my all and I'll look forward to working with them but if it is anyone else then I'll do the exact same thing."

Recruiters often question draftee hopefuls about whether they would be okay with moving interstate to play football, with Cadman more than happy to potentially move away from Victoria.

"I'm just happy to play footy. Playing AFL-level footy has been my dream since day one so now that I'm lucky enough to have that opportunity I'm not going to let it go to waste because I didn't want to play interstate," Cadman said.

"As long as I get to play footy and do what I love then I'm happy to play anywhere."

The 18-year-old's meteoric rise to pick number one contention has been something to marvel at, with the former winger having never played as a key forward until this season.

"When we finished last season 'Deeks' (David Loader) said he might play me up forward this year. I ended up kicking a few goals in the first game against Bendigo and now here we are," Cadman said.

"I don't know the reason behind the move but nonetheless he threw me up forward and thank God he did."

Cadman ended up kicking the most goals in the NAB League en route to team-of-the-year honours, in which he was named vice captain, capping off an impressive season at the Rebels.

The towering key forward's stellar form continued for Vic Country in the National Championships, booting 10 goals across four games including three in the championship decider against Vic Metro.

"To play against the best up-and-coming players in our country and still perform the way I wanted to was a real confidence booster," Cadman said.

"When I came back to the NAB League my game went through the roof. The Championships gave me the confidence and boost that helped me realise I was good enough to be here."

Hailing from Darley, the Cadman family bleeds Devils black and white, with older brothers Joel and Duncan both playing seniors football at Darley, and younger brother Nick ready to join the Rebels program next year.

Cadman said his family had been nothing but supportive all season long as the Rebels graduate juggled NAB League commitments and full-time work alongside his brothers at the family business in Melbourne.

The draftee hopeful often spent upwards of three hours in the car driving back and forth every day.

"It was a bit hard at the start, I did used to get a little bit tired but once I started to get the hang of it it was manageable as long as I got a good night's sleep," Cadman said.

"I think it was actually good in helping me learn that not everything is going to be sunshine and rainbows."

Cadman averaged 2.8 goals per game this NAB League season. Picture by Luke Hemer
Cadman averaged 2.8 goals per game this NAB League season. Picture by Luke Hemer

It has been a former Darley Devil turned AFL star in Zak Butters who has been offering Cadman plenty of advice ahead of draft night, with Butters close friends with Cadman's older brothers.

"He has been a massive help, these last few weeks basically every day we've gone out on the track or gone to the gym together," Cadman said.

"He's given me some really good insight as to what it is like to be an AFL player and I can't thank him enough. I look forward to hopefully playing against him or even playing with him."

On Monday night, Cadman will follow in Butters' footsteps and become an AFL player, it just remains to be seen if the Giants take him with the first pick.

Words by Edward Holland.