To He Who Waits

He’d been through it all before. The nerves, anxiety, hope and ultimate disappointment of the AFL Draft process had long become second nature.

He could put a brave face on being overlooked like a seasoned pro and knew every emotion inside out; well, almost every emotion.

Finally, eight years removed from his first brush with the nerves, anxiety, hope and ultimate disappointment of the AFL Draft process, David Mirra could feel elated.

Finally, his name was read out.

For a brief moment joy gave way to confusion, as a glitch in the AFL’s draft tracker had him crossing the Nullabor to join recently drafted teammate Sam Switkowski at Fremantle.

Soon enough clarity became confirmation that Hawthorn was the destination.

Already at Waverley for a pre-season training session with his Box Hill teammates, Mirra need only a few short steps to conclude a near decade-long journey, with his new coach and teammates in the same building.

“It’s something that I thought wouldn’t happen, to be honest,” says Mirra.

“At my age and where I’m at I’d started thinking about my career outside of footy and didn’t expect something like this to happen.

“I’ve seen other people go through it, heard people at the Club talking about it, and I wasn’t in that conversation anymore, so you start to think your time has passed.”

After so many near-misses and close calls, interviews with recruiters and scouting reports, interest from an AFL club had crystallised into a commitment.

“It’s surreal, it’s crazy. I was pretty taken aback by the call from Graham Wright a couple of weeks ago saying I was chance (to get picked up). I actually laughed on the phone!

“I thought he was calling to ask about ‘Switta,’ ‘Jonesy’ and ‘Brol,’ because they were the calls I was getting from clubs, managers and different newspapers.

“He had a chat to ‘Murph’ (Sean Murphy, former Box Hill Strength and Conditioning Coach, now at Hawthorn), they looked at my medical history, did a scan to see how my body was and had some conversations in the background that I wasn’t aware of.

“Leading into the draft there were no promises, just ‘you’re a chance.’”

As if to prove how quickly things can change, whilst confident Mirra would return in 2018, key figures at Box Hill couldn’t be certain up until last week, with the skipper signing on the dotted line following a period of post-season reflection.

“I spoke to a few VAFA clubs, local clubs and mates who play in the EFL, but it never went any further than seeing what opportunities existed.

“For me the reason I signed on at Box Hill for 2018 was that I was still ticking every box in the off-season program. I was still running, training hard and wanted to get really fit.

“I still wanted to play at the highest level and that was enough for to decide to have another crack next year.”

When the news broke that Mirra would instead be having a crack at the big time, the Victorian football community was unanimous in it’s outpouring of congratulations and goodwill.

Tributes poured in from all corners of the industry, with fans, teammates, opponents, media personalities and more forming a ragged queue to salute a man who had belatedly and deservedly been given his chance.

“It was overwhelming, it really was. To see the amount of support, calls and messages from teammates, friends, coaches and people I’ve met along the way was unbelievable.

“The last 10-15 years of my footy life flashed before my eyes like a timeline. The last 24-hours have been the best kind of trip down memory lane and a reminder of how I’ve got to where I am now.

Mirra is acutely aware that this milestone, as momentous as it is, represents the start of a new chapter, and it’s one he’s keen to make the most of.

“I’m looking forward to learning what AFL footy is all about.

“I’ve been on the outside looking in over the past nine years, but now I’m actually there I can experience it and can see what its about, enjoy the ride and test myself against the best players.”

Unsurprisingly, the man who had to push pause on dreams of an AFL career for so long just wants to play.

“Now I want to repay the faith the Hawks have shown in me and push for a senior game. Right now it’s exciting, it’s great, I’m thrilled, but thats just being on the list.”

“Once I get in and play a game, thats the moment I’ll really sit back and think, ‘you put your head down, you didn’t cop anything, you had a crack and look at what you’ve done.’”

126-games for Box Hill, four times a VFL Team of the Year selection, a Col Austen Trophy, Premiership captain and club games record holder as captain.

David Mirra, you’ve done plenty, but the best is yet to come.

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