Northern Knights best and fairest winner Alex Federico has come home with a wet sail in the back half of the year to skyrocket himself into contention for the upcoming National and Rookie Drafts.
Claiming the Knights’ top gong was a remarkable effort, given Federico only played ten games of TAC Cup footy, having to juggle school footy with Marcellin College as well.
You could do worse than edge out probable top 10 pick Nick Coffield, and fellow potential first round pick Patrick Naish… from ten games. Much worse.
The 184cm inside mid took the TAC Cup by storm in his final five games when he returned from the AGSV season with Marcellin, which included a 44 disposal, 15 clearance game against Murray. If there were ever a statement game from an 18-year-old desperate to get on a list, 44 and 15 would be it.
He does his best work in a phone box, making time and space where there was none. Don’t blink, otherwise you’ll miss his lightning handball out of a pack and all you’ll see is how good he’s just made his teammate look. So it’s no surprise he prides himself on his “clearance work” as a “key strengths” of his, along with his “decision making.”
Federico came into the year with an open mind, confident that his best was good enough, yet aware that he still had lots to prove.
“I think I started alright, not too bad, playing on ball and half back. Probably not how I wanted to play but I was consistent. As each game went by I felt like I improved a lot more. The inside mid role has helped me I think.”
He played in the Vic Metro trial games but marginally missed out on the final list, being selected as their emergency.
“After the first game when I hurt my back I didn’t play, and that hurt my chances a bit. But I thought the second game I played well and may have done enough to make the squad.”
For someone who went on to win the Knights’ best and fairest (did I mention it was from 10 games?), he may have been forgiven for being a bit disgruntled, maybe even doubting himself at times.
“Nah not really, not at all actually. I was obviously spewing but I thought there’s another 15 odd games to go, so I didn’t really think about that, to be honest. I was gutted for a few days but then I had a game for school the next week and I just moved on and used it as motivation.”
That would be no surprise to Knights Talent Manager Rhy Gieschen who said: “He’s one of the best characters that I’ve had in the program in my time.”
He’s far from a one trick pony though, boasting elite running endurance and great hands over his head as Gieschen added.
“He’s a fantastic size for a mid at 184 cm, so he’s that real modern prototype build for an inside mid, and his point of difference is that he’s got fantastic endurance. He ran a 10 min 3km at the start of the year which puts him right up in the elite category.
“Another point of difference is that he can take an overhead mark. He can hurt the opposition in a number of different ways.”
Federico slotted in seamlessly to the Northern Blues’ line-up for two games mid-way through the year and showed he can match it at the next level.
“I gained confidence because the pace goes up a level, the bigger bodies, and I didn’t feel like I was out of place. I was played out of position a bit at half forward but I was just grateful for the opportunity.”
If there was a player in better form than Federico in the last month of the year then maybe he wasn’t signing the team sheet before the game, because the Knights’ gun was in a league of his own, and certainly didn’t just go round with the ball on a string without anyone noticing.
His 44 disposal effort against Murray, which followed another 30 against Western, gave him confidence that recruiters were using some ink in their highlighters for his name.
“After that game, I felt like I’d definitely increased my chances a lot” he admitted.
“I made the most of my last few games at the knights. I really just knuckled down and thought well you’ve only got five more games to prove yourself so just have a crack.”
And have a crack, he did.
Federico is the type of player who could slip into a club, get close to the leaders in the running, turn some heads with his hands in the air, win the respect of the older players and before he knows it, find himself firing out contested footy from the bottom of a pack on the hallowed MCG turf.
There’s no fuss about him, he just gets it done.
The only thing he needs now is a chance, and some confidence; because “if you’re confident enough, then you can play at a high level” he says.