PLAYER FEATURE: Brayden Kilpatrick

It was one of those purple patches that comes every once in a while, the sort where every step, every decision and every instinct pulls you to exactly where you need to be; you could run away from the action and still end up in precisely the right spot.

Brayden Kilpatrick had had a good day up until three quarter time of the Box Hill Hawks’ round five encounter with Sandringham, but his last quarter was one such purple patch.

Between the five and twenty-one minute marks the former Sydneysider kicked three raking left-footers to the scoreboard end of City Oval, arrowed straight through the middle as only southpaws can, to finish the contest with twenty-six touches and those three goals.

Box Hill would ultimately run out 64-point winners and Kilpatrick could sing the song knowing his contributions had been key in securing another much sought-after four points.

But, as can happen in football, a mid-week chat with the coach can change things – for better or worse – very quickly.

“Obviously it was frustrating in a way (being omitted), because I felt like I was playing well enough and holding my own.”

Though the crafty half-forward was never in any doubt about the support of his mentor.

“‘Newy’ and the coaches were great, and the message was ‘be patient.’

“We sat down and he (Newman) said, ‘you’re playing really good footy,’ and the takeaway was to keep my head down and work hard, knowing another opportunity would present itself.

“With the Club being affiliated with Hawthorn and their list being so healthy, I understand how the system works, I had to control what I could, go back to South (Croydon) and work on some things I mightn’t have the exposure or opportunity to at VFL level.

“And I feel like since coming back (into the Box Hill side) working on those elements – contested ball, playing a little more inside – has really helped me.”

‘Killa’ had only narrowly missed out on selection for the Club’s round one win at Williamstown but won his way into the twenty-three man squad for the rounds two and three wins away to Frankston and Coburg, before playing for local outfit South Croydon as the Hawks had the round four bye.

Now, after twenty-six and three, he was back to ply his trade for South Croydon of the EFL having been the unlucky man squeezed out.

But with his coach’s words ringing in his ears, Kilpatrick kept his head down, kept his focus, kept working and waited.

“Everyone here is trying to play for Box Hill, but whilst thats where your priorities lie theres no doubt when playing at South you need to give them your all, and thats what I try to do.

And that’s precisely what the Hawks’ number eleven did for the next eight weeks as he set about the task of working his name back into senior contention.

But, naturally, local football presents it’s own unique challenges, with not all of them being on field. Changes to the structure of the VFL, chiefly the removal of the Development League, has necessitated a far greater, more meaningful relationship between state league clubs and their local counterparts.

“It’s been tough at times.

“The style of football is obviously a little different. Local grounds tend to be smaller, so it’s more contested.

“But the communication between both clubs has been fantastic, thats probably made the transition going back and forth a lot easier.

“South have been great to me, they’ve always been my local club as long as I’ve been at Box Hill and I really enjoy playing there whenever I go back.”

Finally, come round fourteen’s Etihad Stadium curtain raiser against Footscray the one-time Swans Academy prospect had his chance.

The Hawks went into the clash on the back of just one win in their previous five, having dropped to seventh on the VFL ladder and in desperate need of a vital four points to re-ignite a season threatening to critically falter.

After a tricky start under the Etihad roof both Kilpatrick and his team found their rhythm, returning to the winners’ list and kickstarting a four match unbeaten run that has seen the Hawks climb back into to the competition’s top four. ‘Killa’ has featured in all four of those victories.

“It’s hard to say what we were missing or what wasn’t working for us during that lean run, because I was playing local at the same time, so I didn’t see and can’t be exactly sure.

“But since I’ve come back into the team – and something that I’ve always found here – is that everyone within the team knows their role. When we all execute those roles we win games.

“No one is too distracted or fascinated by the stats. ‘Did we win, did we play our role?’ Thats what we mark ourselves on.”

Since resuming his place in the senior twenty-three Kilpatrick has played in his favoured roles on the wing and half-forward, averaged a whisker under twenty touches a game and contributed one goal in each of his four outings.

“I’m pretty happy with how I’m travelling at the moment, but always trying to improve.

“I’m really enjoying my role across half-forward, trying to base my game off pressure and using my skills and ball use as much as possible to drive us forward and create opportunities to hit the scoreboard.”

That enjoyment is clear for all to see, with his one-of-a-kind personality unmissable on both training track and game day. The smile, the jokes, the ability to change gear between the gags and graft an endearing trait.

That he wears a retro-ish Box Hill tracksuit top during most evening training sessions – a top he must’ve found in the property room and has since co-opted as his own – seems oddly in sync. Most lefties tend to be a little different, don’t they.

“A while ago, maybe a year-and-a-half into my time here, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.

“I had a chat to ‘Newy’ and a few others around the club and spoke about where I wanted to go and through that worked out that I absolutely wanted to get the best out of myself.

“I didn’t mind if I was playing Development or Seniors, I just wanted to have fun with my footy and I try to bring that out on track: a few laughs, some jokes, but at the same time making sure that I always get something out of every session

“But, yeah, I do try to enjoy myself.”

The young man who packed up his life at the age of 18, moving from Sydney to Melbourne for a spot on a VFL list, has more than earned every opportunity he’s been given. Importantly, he’s taking them, too.

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