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Ryan's stocks rise

Luke Ryan chats to the media after his NAB Rising Star nomination. Luke Ryan chats to the media after his NAB Rising Star nomination.

Ahead of the 2016 VFL season, Luke Ryan was turned away from the Essendon Bombers VFL squad after a four-week trial.

The Bombers needed to find space to include a number of AFL listed players, and Ryan didn’t fit in.

A day later, the Coburg Lions made the call to recruit Ryan – setting the talented backman on a path to the AFL.

Taken at the tail end of the 2016 National Draft with pick no.66, Ryan has impressed during eight games at Fremantle to become their first NAB Rising Star nominee since Connor Blakely and Lachie Weller’s nominations in 2016.

“I was told I wasn’t going to make it, which was pretty hard,” Ryan said.

“But luckily Coburg called me a day later.

“I wanted to have a crack and luckily enough I got a call to go down there and I took it straight away.

“I’m lucky that Coburg gave me that opportunity.”

In 2015, it was Ryan who turned his back on football after falling out of love with the game.

Ryan returned to playing local footy and focused on his carpentry apprenticeship – but it only rekindled a fire that has sparked Ryan into pursuing an AFL career.

“I wasn’t really enjoying my footy at all. I just wanted to go back down and play with my mates and really get the love for the game again,” Ryan said. 

“Luckily enough, I found it and it’s led me to where I am today.

“I was talking to a lot of the experienced boys down there, they told me about the opportunity I had in front of me and that I should take it.

“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’ve seen that now and grabbed it with both hands.”

Ryan’s rise at AFL level has been short and fast.

In his first four AFL games, the 21-year-old averaged 11.25 disposals and four marks per game.

In the following four games, Ryan has averaged 23 disposals and 10.75 marks per game, and his nine intercept marks in round 20 against Gold Coast was just one off an AFL record.


After settling in Perth with teammate Tommy Sheridan, and with his carpentry apprentice as a fall-back option, Ryan’s focus has shifted towards his teammates as excitement builds around Fremantle’s future. 

“As a side, we are building,” Ryan said.

“We’re such a young group, we know we’re on the right path and getting better every week’ 

“The club’s future is looking bright which is really good and we’re really excited to see what we have coming in the next couple of years.

“As I said, step by step it’s about improving and learning. We’re in that rebuild phase, we’re a really young group and I think we’re on the right path.

“It’s every kid’s dream to play a professional sport, especially AFL.

“I’m loving every minute of it and I want to keep working as hard as I can to stay in my career, even though I have the carpentry to fall back on if it doesn’t work out.” 

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs