Jai Culley says it was “a dream come true” to land at West Coast in the Mid-Season Rookie Draft and the newest Eagle can’t wait to link up with the squad in Adelaide to begin his AFL journey.
After being overlooked in last year’s drafts, Culley took it upon himself to put in the work on the physical and mental sides of his game and was rewarded when the Eagles swooped with the first selection overall on Wednesday night.
“It was bloody unreal. Just so stoked to hear my name called out. A dream come true,” Culley said.
“The best feeling in the world. Indescribable. That’s all I can say really.”
Having taken feedback on board about his need to improve his fitness, Culley transformed from a forward to a goalkicking midfielder for the Dandenong Stingrays this year.
The 19-year-old took his game to another level and a dominant showing in the Young Guns clash with Vic Metro last month paved the way to West Coast.
Culley’s four-goal, 22-disposal effort was impossible to ignore as his hard work paid off at the perfect time under recruiters’ noses.
“Obviously COVID (lockdowns in Victoria last year) wasn’t the best thing. There was no structure and no training, which was pretty annoying, but you realise if you want to get to the next level you’ve got to rely on yourself and your self-discipline,” Culley said.
“That’s what I did. Just got to work. Put a gym in my house and got to work running every day, training, just little things I could improve each day.
“I’ve been doing a bit of work with our psychologist at ‘Dandy’ so we have a really good relationship and I’ve gained heaps more self-belief and confidence off-field.”
Culley will train with the Eagles on Friday at Adelaide Oval before the team’s clash with the Crows and is a chance to line-up for the WAFL Eagles next weekend against Claremont.
It remains to be seen if he can push for senior football in the second half of the season, but Culley’s recruitment is part of a longer-term plan for West Coast’s list regeneration.
“I don’t watch too much footy outside of my own games but obviously I can see that they’re not going the best, but I’m looking forward to heading over and trying to make an impact,” Culley said.
“I’m obviously going to be so excited going onto an AFL list. Even more excited that it’s West Coast. New place, new people, really looking forward to it.
“I had a really good message from Luke Shuey. It’s surreal. You see them all on TV and now he’s on my phone, it’s crazy.
“Obviously I was only three or four when (coach Adam Simpson) was playing, so I didn’t know too much, but I’ve done heaps of research on him and he was a terrific player, and played at North (Melbourne).
“I’m looking forward to learning heaps of new stuff off him. Not only him, all the coaches and boys.”