Hewett overcomes Covid challenges

NEEDING asthma inhalers to breathe and falling asleep on the way to the game representing Australia, AFL Draft hopeful Elijah Hewett felt the full brunt of both Covid and the flu at the same time. As his year was about to take off, the West Australian – who had already tasted senior WAFL football – was unable to do too much at the time, and suffered with ongoing issues over the next couple of months.

“I was really excited (about the Australia game), but unfortunately I got got Covid the day before the game,” Hewett said. I didn’t know what it was I thought it was the cold so I was sleeping on the way to the game, absolutely exhausted wondering why. The next morning I woke up to the club expert, they wouldn’t let me test in Melbourne just because I’d have to stay a week so I went home and tested, and was obviously positive.

“It probably took me two months to really recover, I was coughing for quite a long time. But in your draft year you’re trying to do everything you can to play so I didn’t put limits on myself at all. I was just really stoked and proud of myself I was able to play through that amidst a real hard time and still play some real good games even probably while being not as functional as I would have liked.”

Despite the challenges, Hewett was still able to perform at a level above many of his peers, competing well for a mix of club and state sides, with the teenager earning a spot in the Swan Districts League side for the opening round of the season.

“I did the preseason with my WAFL footy team Swannies and I wasn’t too sure what was going to happen there,” Hewett said. I guess a lot of those WAFL clubs are quite conservative straight up and try and push you through later in the season, so I was quite fortunate to get the call-up for Round 1 which was not a surprise, I thought I deserved it, but I was super stoked with it.

“Initially I played quite a lot forward, played stints of midfield, think it put me in good stead to head back to the Under 18 level and unfortunately some things occurred throughout the year which didn’t allow me to play consistently, even I missed the Under 18s level, but I’m glad I got the opportunity and it put me on the front foot in the next few years.”

A level head, Hewett was admitted that all the draft prospects tended to “stress a bit” and that it was difficult to overcome. For the West Australian, he spoke to those closest to him and with prior knowledge of a similar journey, in order to combat the stress and challenges the best.

“I think it’s all about absorbing as much information as you can possibly can from people you trust and who have a good foot in the industry and know a lot about the game,” he said. I think it’s a really difficult time but I think when you go out with the mindset you want to play week to week and not really worry about November, you help yourself out a lot and you put the work in throughout the preseason. You tend to put yourself in real good stead through the season so there’s not much to really worry about at that point.”

Hewett rates his leadership as a key trait of his that stands out to clubs, and could see him land inside the Top 20 AFL Draft prospects. On-field, his explosiveness and strength is what separates him from his peers.

“Teams in clubs are really starting to understand the psychology of sport and how important it is for successful teams and to win premiership, so I think that’s something that stands up quite quickly,” Hewett said. Then more footy related my explosion from the contest, strength of the hips, my ability to go up forward and kick goals are probably my best on-field attributes and I’ve been developing them over the last two years and I think I’m at a point that’s sustainable and I’m able to really reach the top level and hopefully just display my best traits on the top stage.”

In terms of improvements, Hewett is focused purely on his running to take his game to the next level. As someone who has followed Dustin Martin and Christian Petracca to emulate their explosiveness from the stoppage, Hewett said it was now about improving his long distance running.

“Short burst and explosive short distance I’m quite good at, but when it comes to long distances, my body is more of a power athlete not an endurance athlete,” he said. I really have to work on that aspect, and if I can get the double-edge sword of being a good endurance and speed combination, that’s really some of the best players in the game have them.

“I’ll be definitely working on my running and then trying to improve my skills under fatigue and a lot of stoppage IQs as you get to a level where a lot of mid-forwards are a lot stronger and know how to use their bodies a lot better.”

While the ‘go home’ factor is always a concern for clubs drafting players outside their home state, Hewett said he had accepted he would move away from Western Australia. His goal was to reach the top level, and both he and his family had no qualms about moving interstate to chase that dream.

“I’m probably most likely going to be leaving WA and I welcome that prospect along quite well and my family have really adapted and absolutely excited for me to go wherever I am to follow my dreams since I was a kid,” he said. To play at the top level’s for me to be as competitive as I can, absolutely excited. My goal was set in the preseason trying to get myself to the top level to try and play as early as possible.”

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