Cameron Wood kicks for goal while playing for Williamstown this year. Photo: Michael Copp
Cameron Wood wasn't always a favourite of Collingwood fans during his five years with the Magpies, but he was with his teammates, a fact underlined again on Wednesday when the ruckman was selected by Carlton in the AFL rookie draft.
Former teammates were quick to tweet their approval. “Super excited for the 'big dog' getting another chance to prove people wrong,” said Travis Cloke. And one-time ruck cohort Josh Fraser chimed in, too. “Congrats on getting picked up by the Blues. Smart pick up!” he wrote.
Wood took to Twitter, too, to profess his to shock at the news. Working as a "Casanova" promotions man for radio station Nova out at Highpoint Shopping Centre, he had to run out to the car park to get some reception so he could follow the selections. "Wow! Still in shock!," he tweeted. "One minute I'm 'casanova'ing & the next I'm rookied by Carlton. Excited is an understatement."
Wood, 26, spent this year with VFL club Williamstown after being cut from Collingwood's list at the end of 2012, and will be reunited with his Magpie coach Mick Malthouse as a back-up ruckman to Matthew Kreuzer and Robert Warnock, after Carlton traded Shaun Hampson to Richmond.
Carlton will be Wood's third AFL club. Initially drafted by Brisbane at No. 18 in 2004, he played just 16 games in three seasons with the Lions before being traded to Collingwood, where he played another 48.
Fraser, who watched plenty of Wood in the VFL, believes Wood has shown new maturity in going back to state-league level and carving out a successful season. He called Carlton's selection “savvy”.
“I just think he's in the right age bracket to be a genuine back-up ruckman,” he said. “When you think about some of the other ruckmen going around in their 30s, to be able to get someone still of his age and experience, it's a smart move.
“He's had a terrific season, shown a lot of maturity and done more than enough. I think by his own admission, Cam would say in some ways he struggled to get his head around being an AFL footballer. But sometimes you need that kick in the arse to make you find the commitment that's needed.”
Congrats @probably_wood on getting picked up by the blues. Smart pick up!— Josh Fraser (@jfraser17) November 27, 2013
Congrats @probably_wood on getting picked up by the blues. Smart pick up!
Carlton recruiting manager Shane Rogers says the Blues considered Wood the best ruckman outside the AFL. “Obviously, Mick's worked with him before, and even 'Daisy' [former Pie turned Blue Dale Thomas] thought he was a really good tap ruckman,” Rogers said.
“Insurance isn't a nice word for him, but that's probably what he's here to do, hopefully play 10-12 games if required. It's a long year, and with just two ruckmen, you'd have to be naïve to think they're both going to play 22 games.”
Wood's last AFL game was in round 22 of 2012, and couldn't have come in tougher circumstances. With senior man Darren Jolly (who on Wednesday missed out on being re-drafted) out of the line-up, Wood had to fight essentially a lone battle in Perth against West Coast pair Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui.
Collingwood was smashed in the hitouts 59-12, and more than doubled for clearances. Wood was dropped for the final home-and-away game, and didn't figure in selection for any of the Magpies' three finals.
But Peter German, who coached Wood at Williamstown this year, says that, after finding his feet, Wood had a very good year for the Seagulls, spending 60 per cent of his game time in the ruck and finishing fourth in the club's best and fairest.
“I think as the season went on, he certainly became pretty critical to us,” German said. “He's a beautiful kick and a monster kick too, he can kick them from outside 50. He's got that athleticism, and I think Carlton would be banking on his best football still being in front of him.
“The more confidence he gets in his ability, the more you're going to see a player who is able to step up and fill the void. I think, given a bit more time, he could still possibly develop into a No. 1 ruckman.
“Sometimes with big blokes, because they're big in stature, people assume they're leaders, but a lot of the time they're probably as insecure as anyone else and maybe lack the confidence they need.
“I see Cam a little like that, a bit reserved and maybe a little bit shy. I think if he can just come out of his shell a bit, then that's the thing that's really going to help his footy. Just being prepared to put himself on the line, whereas I think sometimes he's been a bit conservative.”
Rogers believes Wood has developed more body strength, but more significantly, improved the weaknesses which eventually forced him out at Collingwood after playing only six senior games in his final year.
“He looked like he'd put more weight on across his chest, which has always been a bit of a concern of mine, personally, and he really started pushing forward and taking a few marks,” Rogers said.
“He sort of completed the missing links he had at AFL level, so if he can come back in this time around and do those things, he'll be a pretty handy player for us.”