Caddy primed to spread wings post-setback

THERE’S never a good time to get injured, but less than a month out from season proper is up there with the most untimely periods to do so. It is exactly what Northern Knights forward Nate Caddy is readying himself to bounce back from.

The aerial specialist was primed to spread his wings in 2023 after a bottom-age campaign which saw him feature in the unbeaten Vic Metro Under 18 side, and boot 18 goals in 13 Coates Talent League games.

Now the AFL Academy member faces a stint on the sidelines of around 4-6 weeks, ruling him out of the start of the new season. Donning a moon boot at Saturday’s Coates Talent League preseason testing day, Caddy explained how ironically, he injured his leg while doing what he does best – flying for a mark.

“I went to jump for a contest and it just rolled underneath me,” he said. “There’s a chip in my fibula, it’s not too bad but definitely a better bone to break than others.”

The injury puts Caddy “back at square one” after a strong preseason which saw him put on size and grow to 193cm. He had trained at Carlton for a week and hardly felt “out of place” there, but will now be playing catch up to some of his high-end AFL Draft competitors.

Caddy should know what it takes to be drafted too, having played with and against some of the best tall forwards of last year’s crop in Aaron Cadman and Matthew Jefferson. Not only is he better for that firsthand experience, but aptly aided by a bunch of mentors more close to home.

Nate is nephew of two-time AFL premiership player Josh Caddy, and best mates with 2022 draftee Cooper Harvey, meaning he has essentially seen it all when it comes to reaching and maintaining AFL standards.

“Josh, my uncle has always been there to talk about footy,” Caddy said. “Brent Harvey too. I grew up with Cooper, he was my best mate so he’s always set the standard high for what an AFL player needs to be. I’ve always seen that and looked up to him.

“At the moment I’ve got Ricky Dyson who’s my school teacher at Parade College… watching my dad (Saul) play too when I was younger, they’re all mentors who’ve helped me along the way.”

Nate Caddy (right) celebrates a goal | Image Credit: Martin Keep/AFL Photos

Caddy is admittedly a much different player to most of the above. He measures up at an awkward height, in between a flanker and true key position size, but plays tall and has his sights set on continuing as a centre half-forward. He says he has a unique physical attribute which should help.

“I’ve got a really long wingspan, it’s like a 6’8 wingspan so it kind of gives me an advantage on a normal 193cm kid,” Caddy said. “I’m hoping that I’ll play centre half-forward for most of the year because that’s my (best) position I think.

“We’ll see how we go, I’ve been working on midfield craft so I’m always adding that string to my bow. I think for the Knights I’ll be that centre half-forward who rolls up the ground and tries to take pack marks and gets it down to the big boys at full forward.”

While Caddy is the kind of prospect who only needs one viewing to identify his match-winning strengths, the 17-year-old has a few areas to improve on – especially post-injury.

“My weakness last year is that I kicked more points than I did goals, so I want to be more accurate in front of goal this year,” Caddy said. “I want to be a bit more fit and get more kilometres into my legs during games too.”

On top of his own personal development, Caddy is keen to achieve team success with the Knights and “above and beyond” to get himself and a slew of teammates drafted. Northern kicks off its season on Saturday March 25 against the GIANTS Academy at Highgate Recreation Reserve.

In the meantime, Caddy will be recovering and watching the likes of Charlie Curnow and Aaron Naughton strut their stuff at the elite level.

“I find myself watching all sorts of games. I’m a fan of the game I guess, not just of one team,” Caddy said. “I kind of (watch) players more… but I grew up supporting North Melbourne and Richmond.”

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