Still injured in the mid-season draft: the journey of the ex-Haileyburian
By Jonty Ralphsmith
Ex-Haileyburian Hugo Hall-Kahan remembers running and having so much fun.
What he didn’t realize when winning his Under-12 premiership for East Sandringham was that the day would act as an important memory for how much he loves football.
A picture of Hall-Kahan with the premier’s haircut still hangs in his bedroom, and the four quarters of playing in midfield – without slacking off – are etched in his memory.
After this day until the start of the 2021 season punctuated by the Covid, he will only play three football matches.
Three games in five years.
“It was my last football memory before the injuries started,” he said, referring to the premiership.
“So I keep coming back to these heaps because it reminds me how much I love the game.”
It was a mix of unwavering belief and that passion that kept Hall-Kahan mentally engaged for the next period.
A bone and cartilage condition in his knee, Osteochondritis dissecans, kept him out for four years (2016-19) as he was barely able to run or kick. Stress fractures in his back would have kept him out of 2020, regardless of Covid-19.
An avowed “footy nuffie” who wants to give back to the school, he remained a constant presence at Haileybury practices and games, helping wherever he could in the Bloods footy community.
“It was very difficult watching my buddies play, I always had this identity for other people that I was just this kid on the sidelines,” he said.
“It was difficult but I definitely grew as a person – I became more mature.
“I probably realized that the story I had to tell about my injury, I wouldn’t have it any other way because it taught me so many lessons.”
The main ones were the work ethic and how to take care of your body.
Eligible for the mid-season draft on Wednesday June 1, chats with close friends and AFL roster Josh Worrell (Adelaide) and Marcus Windhager (St Kilda) gave a glimpse of life at the highest level .
He expects there will be ups and downs if he is selected next month and his background has equipped him well for the challenges.
“I think that belief has always been a big thing for me – I never stopped dreaming,” he said.
“I’ve always believed and always thought that talent doesn’t really go away, it’s more about how hard you are willing to work, so I got to work and really worked hard.
“I knew I had to work very hard and probably a little harder than the others, given that they were always only one step ahead because they had played.
“I always had the AFL in my sights, it was always the dream and I never really gave it up.”
Distinguishing between when his body needs a rest and when it can be pushed hard is another skill he is confident will come in handy in the future.
There is reason to be optimistic that Hall-Kahan will join the line of AFL talent produced by Haileybury, including the Brayshaw brothers, the King twins, Tom Scully and Stefan Martin.
2021 has seen him return to the park and form part of the Haileybury roster, playing four games on the wing before becoming a primary target in the last three games.
He also played two games for NAB League side Sandringham last year, averaging 19 eliminations and a leap for all.
Coach Matthew Lloyd identified him as a talent in 2021, saying he was often among their handful of performers, wearing his heart on his sleeve and always exuding an insatiable work ethic.
“I think he has the ability to play half-back, half-forward, winger, deeper up front, he just has really great versatility,” Lloyd said.
“He’s got good stamina, good speed and he’s a pure footballer – there are a lot of athletes who get drafted and there are a lot of athletes who can play serious football, so I think he has the attributes to have an opportunity and then it’s up to him what to do with it from there.
Getting a full year of football – both playing and training with the top 30 picks of 2021, including Finn Callaghan (GWS), Blake Howes (Melbourne) and Windhager – under his belt in 2021 has been a huge step. according to Hall-Kahan, although frustrating that he was not playing again, although this time around he was in top form.
The 2022 pre-season, which others say is important for Hall-Kahan’s development, built on that form.
Moreover, it was his first uninterrupted pre-season, with no injuries, school cricket or Covid-19 restrictions to contend with.
Hall-Kahan trained under Worrell’s AFL program for three weeks with key Adelaide player and Windhager ahead of 2022.
Those around Hall-Kahan’s NAB League club say Worrell, also a Haileybury alum, insisted on his talent, having had a few kicks with him at the park and persisting in bringing him into the club and him. give a chance to reach the next level.
“He was always very confident and believed in himself, but he was always hurt, but nobody believed in him until he got his body back,” Worrell said.
“Everyone knew he had a bit of talent and it’s been good for him to show it this year – it’s definitely very deserved for all the work he’s done in rehab and what he made to get back in shape every week.”
A nine-shot, four-goal outing in a practice match for Sandringham against Dandenong Stingrays kicked off a strong first month for Hall-Kahan.
Listed at 188 centimeters, he started the season as an undersized key target on offense, sharing the forward 50 with top five prospects Harry Sheezel.
In his first four official games, Hall-Kahan has thrown 11.7, including a sack of five against Calder Cannons in the second round, and his AFL-style running patterns are also catching the attention of coaches.
Running has always been a feature of his game and his ability to outrun opponents by working the pitch and then exposing them from the back has been the source of many of his goals.
Hall-Kahan’s high-speed (18 mph or more) meters – an important metric used to gauge running power and intensity – are among the best at his NAB League club and he regularly runs more 10 kilometers per game, with little time. on the bench.
The ex-Haileyburian recently contacted former school coach Lloyd to work on his set-piece routine ahead of the mid-season draft, but the 270-game Essendon striker is confident a Improved confidence, rather than correcting a technical fault, will allow the 18 year old to thrive.
“Hugo has always been very good at making life very difficult for his opponents because of his work rate and he never stands still,” Lloyd said.
“He’s taken it to another level this year at Sandy to continuously present and get opportunities to have shots on goal.
“I think clubs would look at him and they might see a Jack Gunston type footballer who can play as a third big and it’s hard to play big or small on him.”
Hall-Kahan was selected for the Colgate Young Guns squad, essentially putting him in the top bracket of 2003-born talent in the state, with 13 AFL clubs nominated to watch him.
The Colgate Young Guns played two games in May, with Hall-Kahan showing his run as he adjusted to a high half forward in Game 1, before two outside goals from 50 in Game 2 at Ikon Park in Carlton.
“I go into every game knowing that I can beat any opponent that comes my way – that’s the mindset I have.”
The 18-year-old works at his father’s Southeast Asian restaurant on Collins Street to enable him to get to Dragons training sessions early and prioritize his football as he tries to be deaf to external discourse.
He’s just happy to be back in football.
“Every game matters right now, so I try to do my best and feel fresh,” he said.
“I’m enjoying the continuity of playing again and having games under my belt.
“It’s all I ever wanted to do and I have total confidence in my body now, so I feel really good.”