Unlike his elegant style of play, Finn Callaghan’s journey to the draft was not always so smooth-moving.
The midfielder faced a significant bump in the road only two years ago, when he was ignored at the Vic Metro selection table as an under-16. It came as a shock — he captained the under-12 state side four years prior — but it was also the spark he needed.
Exciting young prospect, Finn Callaghan.Credit:Joe Armao
“I was really disappointed, but I think it was the best thing to happen for me,” Callaghan told The Age. “I thought I was going OK, so that was a reality check that I wasn’t up to the level.
“I went away and worked super hard that next off-season to improve and become better in all areas.”
Callaghan looks on during the NAB AFL Draft Victoria training day at Trevor Barker Oval recently.Credit:AFL Photos
The real growth, however, would come literally. Now 191 centimetres and pushing towards 90 kilograms, it is difficult to imagine the big-bodied athlete as the “little, squeaky-voiced kid” that Sandringham Dragons coach Jackson Kornberg recently reflected on him as. But the late-developing prospect acknowledges the growth spurt as a pivotal point in his rise.
“I was lucky to have a big growth spurt, I hit puberty much later than the other boys,” Callaghan said.
“The last time people saw me play I was completely different, physically. Now, I’m taller and I’ve put on a bit of size, so I think that helps with being able to handle the contest and the physicality that comes with playing against bigger boys, especially the 19-year-olds.”
Despite growing in height, size, and football prowess, Callaghan has remained grounded off the field. His humility, as his manager Tom Seccull explains, is equally admirable.
“Finn has a lot going for him,” Seccull, of Hemisphere Management Group, said. “Obviously there’s the football and athletic talent that’s been spoken about, but he’s also a great young man off the field. Kind, humble, extremely grateful, and very popular amongst his friends and teammates.”
A glance at Callaghan’s pedigree would tell you it was a matter of when, not if, he would develop into the striking athlete he has become. His father, who stands above 190cm himself, was a 400-metre runner at the 1994 Commonwealth Games.
He has also proved a valuable point of resource in Callaghan’s bid to plug more power into his own running.
“More recently, he has been doing a lot of running with me, especially last year during COVID,” Callaghan said. “I felt my power was a bit of a weakness, so I wanted to improve that — I was doing lots of training with him. He was helping me with running technique and things like that, so he’s been really good.”
Another of Callaghan’s primary training partners through various lockdowns was long-time friend and fellow first-round prospect Blake Howes, with whom he shares a sense of healthy competitiveness.
“These last few years, we’ve been training really hard together,” Callaghan said. “I want him to be as good as he can, and I think he wants the same for me.
“It’s been a good journey so far. We were at kindergarten together, primary school, and also St Bede’s College as well. We did footy, cricket and basketball together, so we’ve been together throughout our whole lives.”
The friendship also gave Callaghan an understanding of what it took to succeed along the talent pathway.
“He was probably better at 16s, so it was good to share the experience with him while he was going well and learning from him. He was in the All-Australian teams and that sort of thing, so he gave a good insight into what it’s all like,” he said.
Now, while Howes is widely seen as a top-30 talent and a possible first-round choice, Callaghan has cemented himself as a more-than-likely top-five pick. He is not resting on his laurels, though, with a continued emphasis on building power also coming through regular gym work.
“It’s not too much heavy stuff — I’m not going to the gym trying to push out 100-kilogram reps on squats — it’s more eight-to-ten reps, sometimes six, with a focus on explosive power. We normally go lighter weight, but focus on good form, exploding upwards and replicating movements I do in a game,” Callaghan explained.
The main facet of his game, however, never needed such developing. Class, composure and style were always the inborn ingredients to the Callaghan recipe.
“I think I’ve always been pretty composed when I have the footy,” he said. “I generally make pretty good decisions, so I think it’s something I’ve been blessed with since I was younger.
“It’s hard to develop that. You’ve either got it, or you don’t.”
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