Date: June 29 2012
James Stewart wants in with the Pies.
JAMES Stewart has grown up dripping black and white blood. He spent a week with Collingwood last summer, on work experience, and didn't want to go home when it ended. His father, Craig, played 115 games for the Magpies and James would love to go back there for good.
''It would be a dream come true,'' he said. ''To play for the club my dad played for would be an amazing experience. But I have to be realistic, there's no guarantee it will happen.''
Welcome to the life of a father-son prospect. The standard life, that is. Where Joe Daniher and Jack Viney know Essendon and Melbourne want them - and where recruiters agree both are absolute first-round prospects - Stewart is still in the process of proving himself.
He's also caught up in the mind games that the father-son bidding process has encouraged since it was introduced a few years ago. Collingwood hasn't decided if it will nominate Stewart, is still watching his every game closely, and will see no benefit in telling the world what it decides until it absolutely has to, hoping that if it does want him, it will get him cheaply.
Ask everyone else and they suspect the Pies are talking him down: that he's a late first-round pick, or maybe a second-rounder. Then again, similar things were said about Tom Curran, drafted by North Melbourne after Hawthorn decided not to nominate him this time last year.
For the clubs involved, deciding whether to nominate a player isn't as simple as it was when the cost was a set third-round pick.
For the moment, Stewart is a tall forward, one of the not-so-many putting their hand up to be chosen reasonably early in the coming draft. He can run, he's agile, his skills are sound, he thinks his way through things, is composed, and very conscious of his team. ''He has attributes that other players his size don't have,'' said one recruiter.
Two years ago, he was putting those things to use as an outside-midfielder, playing on a wing for his school side and the Sandringham Dragons. Now, having grown more than four centimetres and overcome a back injury that ruined the second half of last year, he's learning how to do all the things that come with being a key forward.
He's trying to gain some weight, to get stronger. He's trying to build his fitness now that his back is better and he can train properly. He wants to play with more consistency and, on the advice of his father, he's starting to seek a bit more attention. To develop more presence, and use it.
''Dad's been telling me to use my voice a lot more,'' Stewart said. ''He doesn't think I'm loud enough on the field, and that's something quite simple that doesn't require any skill. It's something I've tried to work on and I think it's something that could really help my performance.
''Sometimes you might be in the right position, but if you don't demand the ball then no one will kick it to you. I can be a bit quiet - at least initially, until I get to know the players in my team - but I'm trying to be louder straight away, to be a bit more demanding. For me, it's just being conscious of it - yelling a bit louder. It's something I think I've improved on.''
Stewart hasn't had much to do with the Magpies since his week there earlier this year and has no idea what they are thinking, but is a sensible soul. That he was selected in the AIS AFL Academy gave him confidence in his own ability, and spending time with the best young players in the country, as part of that program, encouraged his self-belief even more. ''You start to learn what you're capable of.''
He wants to be as good as he can be, and would love to do it for Collingwood. But he heard what Curran said last year, about 17 new doors opening when the Hawks let him go to the draft, and thought it a good approach.
For now, he wants to play well for Vic Metro, his Scotch College side, and do well in year 12. What happens, will happen.
''I think that's a really good way to look at it, and that's the way I'm trying to think,'' he said. ''To go to Collingwood would be one opportunity, but there are no guarantees and, at this stage, I feel like every other kid hoping to get drafted this year. You think about it and wonder, but every kid gets to the end of a game and wonders what the recruiters thought, when you can never really know.''
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