Wooller wants AFL debut after injury-hit first year
TOBY Wooller took no offence to the inquisitive looks the kids of Ipswich gave him when he turned out for an Auskick clinic as part of the Brisbane Lions' AFL Community Camps initiative.
Whereas the man he was working alongside - Luke Hodge - needed little introduction owing to a 300-plus game AFL career, Wooller is yet to lace up for the Lions after he was selected with Pick 41 in the 2017 National Draft.
But he hopes to start eating into Hodge's games lead this season.
The former Oakleigh Chargers skipper and grandson to Geelong great Fred Wooller was sidelined for part of 2018 after injuring the tendon in his left ring finger in mid-March.
He returned for the Lions' NEAFL side in June, and managed 16 goals in 10 matches as a key forward but was unable to crack the AFL team.
Wooller admitted it was frustrating being sidelined so early into his AFL career, particularly as fellow draftee and housemate Cam Rayner saw immediate on-field success.
But he approached the situation with a glass half-full outlook.
"It was different, but I also saw it as an advantage,” the 19-year-old said.
"It gave me a lot of time to watch the AFL boys play, and learn about and understand the game and the position I want to play.”
Now fully fit and with an AFL pre-season under his belt, Wooller hopes to repay the faith the club showed in him when it extended his contract to the end of 2020.
"They just want to see me grow as a player,” Wooller said when asked of the club's expectations of him this season.
"They've got faith in me to fulfil my potential. I just have to keep learning, experiencing, and taking it all in.”
And there are few players better to learn from than Hodge, who Wooller is "still in awe” of at times.
Hodge made his AFL debut when Wooller was three-years-old.
"It's still surreal,” he said. "I've been on Community Camp with him for these last two days. He's a four-time premiership player, two-time Norm Smith Medallist . . . it can be daunting. But he's a great bloke.”
Wooller said he is better prepared for his second season in an AFL system, and not just physically.
"I know what to expect now. Hopefully I can break through into the seniors,” he said.
The Lions finished the season with a forward line consisting of key forwards Eric Hipwood and Oscar McInerny.
Wooller wants to be "that third tall option” this season, in a forward line short on experience but high in potential.
"It's a young forward line, which is really exciting,” he said.
"We have our line meetings and no one is really over the age of 24 or 25. I think our most experienced head is Charlie Cameron, who is still a really young fella (at 24).”
He added the time away from the footy field was made easier by being in Queensland - even if the heat has taken some getting used to.
"Doing pre-season up here is a lot harder with the humidity and whatnot, but I'm loving it,” Wooller said.