Christian Petracca

Christian Petracca (born 4 January 1996) is a professional Australian rules footballer playing for the Melbourne Football Club in the Australian Football League (AFL). A midfielder, 1.86 metres (6 ft 1 in) tall and weighing 96 kilograms (212 lb), Petracca has the ability to play dual-positions as a forward and a midfielder both on the inside and outside. Petracca had a standout junior basketball career where he played in the Victorian under 16 side and he was named in the Australian under-18 squad. He entered top-level football early when he played for Victoria at under-12 level and he represented them throughout his junior career, culminating in selection for Vic Metro in the 2014 AFL Under 18 Championships. In addition, he joined the TAC Cup competition as a bottom-aged player. His achievements as a junior included winning the Larke Medal, the most valuable player at state level, and selection in the All-Australian and TAC Cup Team of the Year sides. Petracca was recruited by Melbourne with the second selection in the 2014 AFL draft. He made his AFL debut in 2016 after missing the entire 2015 season with a knee injury and received an AFL Rising Star nomination during his debut season.

Christian Petracca
Petracca training for Melbourne in July 2019
Personal information
Full name Christian Petracca
Date of birth (1996-01-04) 4 January 1996
Original team(s) Eastern Ranges (TAC Cup)
Draft No. 2, 2014 national draft
Debut Round 6, 2016, Melbourne
vs. St Kilda, at Etihad Stadium
Height 186 cm (6 ft 1 in)
Weight 96 kg (212 lb)
Position(s) Midfielder / forward
Club information
Current club Melbourne
Number 5
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
2015– Melbourne 85 (79)
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 2019.
Career highlights
Sources: AFL Tables, AustralianFootball.com

Early life

Petracca was born to Elvira and Tony Petracca on 4 January 1996 and is of Italian heritage.[1] He was recognised as an adept footballer at a young age when he represented Victoria at under-12 level.[2] He played his junior football with the Park Orchards Football Club, Warrandyte Football Club and Beverley Hills Football Club.[2] Apart from football, he was talented at most sports he played including cricket, soccer and tennis, but especially basketball.[2] His leadership was recognised at a young age when he was named co-captain of the Victorian Primary Schools (VPS) basketball side.[3] He featured in the under-16 Victorian basketball side[4] and was selected in the Australian under-17 squad alongside 2014 NBA number-five draft pick and Utah Jazz player, Dante Exum.[5] Basketball was his best sport as a junior, however, he decided to pursue a football career instead at sixteen years of age to stay in Australia and be closer to friends and family.[2]

Petracca attended Whitefriars College, completing year 12 in 2013 and was named as the captain of their football side in the same year.[6] He was a bottom-aged player with the Eastern Ranges in the TAC Cup during 2013 playing as a forward and he finished with 41 goals from 17 matches,[7] including six against the Geelong Falcons in round nine[8] and five in the preliminary final, also against the Geelong Falcons.[9] He was named as one of the best players in the 92-point grand final victory against the Dandenong Stingrays, finishing with two goals and twenty-one disposals[10] and ended the season as the Eastern Ranges leading goalkicker[6] whilst also tying for second place in the best and fairest count.[11] He received mid-year honours through selection as a bottom-aged player for Vic Metro in the 2013 AFL Under 18 Championships, and played in one match, the opening round match against Queensland where he was named as one of the best players.[12] He also played for and captained the Victoria GAA minor (under 18) gaelic football side at the 2013 Australasian Gaelic Games in which he garnered player of the tournament honours.[13]

After graduating high school in 2013, Petracca attended Swinburne University during 2014, studying commerce and marketing.[14] He was awarded a scholarship within the AIS-AFL Academy, which saw him begin his draft year participating in the AIS-AFL Academy match against Collingwood's Victorian Football League (VFL) side at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in April, followed by a two-week tour to Europe.[15] After declaring he wanted to be captain of the Eastern Ranges for 2014,[2] he was instead named vice-captain[16] due to his commitments with the AIS-AFL Academy.[14] He played nine matches for the season finishing with 20 goals[7] and ended the season with a tied third-place finish in the Morrish Medal[17] and was named on the half-forward flank in the TAC Cup team of the year.[18] He was again selected for Vic Metro in the Under 18 Championships playing a midfield, on-ball role.[19] He played five out of six matches and was named in the best players in every match,[20][21][22][23][24] where he averaged twenty-five disposals, five marks and five clearances per match.[25] His performances in the championships saw him rewarded with the Larke Medal as the championships best player,[26] the best and fairest player for Vic Metro where he finished fourteen votes ahead of Ed Vickers-Willis[27] and was named in the All-Australian team as the centre midfield position.[28]

After Petracca's strong performances in the championships, it was predicted he would be drafted inside the top-five in the 2014 national draft,[29][30] however, by the end of the TAC Cup season his draft chances were elevated to him becoming the number one draft pick.[31][32][33][34] His move into the midfield during 2014 proved he had the ability to play in both the forward-line and midfield,[35] along with an increase in his endurance,[36] this saw him described as the "most dominant player in the draft" by AFL Media journalist, Callum Twomey.[37] His dual position capabilities saw him draw comparisons to Richmond player, Dustin Martin, and Port Adelaide midfielder, Ollie Wines,[38][39][40] which led an AFL recruiter to rate him as a "star" and note that he has a "unique skill-set for an 18-year-old. He mixes power, speed, leap and marking. He’s a mid-forward, he’ll be an impact player used in short spells onball, [and] he’s a unique talent."[41]

AFL career

Despite speculation Petracca would be the number one draft pick in the months leading to the 2014 national draft,[42][43][44][45] he was ultimately drafted by the Melbourne Football Club with their first selection and second overall;[46] the eventual number one draft pick, Paddy McCartin, was drafted to the St Kilda Football Club as a long-term replacement for Nick Riewoldt.[47][48] He was predicted to play in the opening round of 2015 due to having an "AFL ready body",[49] however, his season ended abruptly after rupturing his ACL in his left knee at training in February.[50] In May, he signed a two-year contract extension to the end of 2018.[51]

He's genuinely going to be a star of the competition going forward.

Jonathan Brown, former Brisbane Lions captain[52]

After missing the entire 2015 season, speculation by the media surrounded Petracca and when he would play his debut match,[53] however, a basketball mishap saw him break his toe during the Christmas break.[54] Early reports stated he could still make his debut in round one,[55] but, then-Melbourne coach, Paul Roos, quashed the reports by stating the mishap had cost Petracca a round one debut.[56] Following the recovery from his broken toe, he played in the Victorian Football League (VFL) for Melbourne's affiliate team, the Casey Scorpions.[57][58] As he spent more time in the VFL, speculation grew as to when he would make his AFL debut,[59][60][61] along with AFL Media journalist, Callum Twomey, noting the footy world was "fascinated" with Petracca and his potential debut.[62]

Petracca ultimately made his debut in round six against St Kilda at Etihad Stadium[63] in a 39-point loss;[64] there was strong hype surrounding his debut, however, his performance in his debut was labelled as a glimpse of his potential by News Corp Australia journalists, Adam Baldwin[65] and Jay Clark.[66] In his second match he kicked his first AFL goal, finishing with two for the match; his second goal, in which he broke away from his opponent and tapped the ball to himself from the ground, saw former Brisbane Lions forward, Jonathan Brown, praise his skill by stating "jeez...it's a simple game when you make it look that easy."[67] In his fourth match, he recorded twenty-one disposals, eleven score involvements and seven tackles in the sixty-three point win against the Brisbane Lions at the Melbourne Cricket Ground,[68] which saw him rewarded with the round nine nomination for the Rising Star.[69] The match drew high praise from the head of football writer at the Herald Sun, Mark Robinson,[70] while teammate, Jack Watts, labelled him an "absolute beast".[71]

After a handful of matches, Petracca became the favourite to win the Rising Star[72] and received praise from Australian Football Hall of Fame members, Matthew Lloyd and Wayne Carey, with the former claiming his ability would bring fans through the gates, and the latter compared him to Norm Smith Medallist and three-time premiership player, Steve Johnson.[73] Fox Sports Australia journalist, Ben Waterworth, made further comparisons to Steve Johnson, while also declaring Petracca edged Johnson with his overhead marking ability, with former St Kilda captain, Danny Frawley reiterating during the Queen's Birthday clash, "every time he goes near the ball, you sense he's going to mark the ball because he's got a beautiful pair of hands."[74] He played every match following his debut, and finished the season with seventeen in total.[75] After tailing off towards the end of the season, which he later attributed to his body tiring from the demands of AFL football,[76] he finished sixth in the Rising Star[77] and finished twelfth in Melbourne's best and fairest count.[78] Despite finishing sixth in the Rising Star, he ranked first for inside-50s, second for goal assists and third for contested possessions per game out of all the Rising Star nominees.[79] Furthermore, he was recognised as one of the best young players in the league when he was named in the 22under22 team on the half-forward flank.[80]

Entering the 2017 season, Petracca lost six kilograms in an attempt to play more game-time in the midfield and to increase his endurance base.[81] This focused change led many to believe that he would take his "game to the next level" for the 2017 season, including teammates, Dom Tyson[79] and Neville Jetta,[82] Fox Sports Australia journalists, Riley Beveridge[83] and Anna Harrington,[84] 300-gamer for Port Adelaide, Kane Cornes, who drew comparisons between Petracca and the reigning Brownlow Medallist, Patrick Dangerfield,[85] and former Melbourne player David Schwarz, who compared Petracca to the 2003 Brownlow Medallist, Mark Ricciuto.[86] After Melbourne's second match in the JLT Community Series, a fifty-four point win against Carlton, in which Petracca recorded nineteen disposals, six marks and four goals[87] to be named the best player on the ground by AFL Media,[88] Herald Sun journalist, Glenn McFarlane, declared 2017 would be a breakout season for Petracca.[89] Furthermore, in the week leading to the start of the AFL season, he was named in the top fifty AFL players by Mike Sheahan.[90]

Petracca went on to play every match for the season and throughout the season, the media continued to ponder on the type of player Petracca could become. Senior football writer with the Herald Sun, Jon Anderson, wrote in May that Petracca was an "extremely valuable commodity" and compared him to former players Tim Watson, Sam Kekovich and Ron Barassi, and claimed he could outweigh the two previous Brownlow Medallists, Nat Fyfe and Patrick Dangerfield, in his "natural affinity with scoring."[91] Another Herald Sun journalist, Sam Edmund, compared him to Dustin Martin and Robbie Gray and highlighted Petracca's self-confessed dreams of wanting to be remembered as one of the best players and a potential hall of fame member.[1] His teammate, Clayton Oliver, added further praise when he declared "he's going to be one of the best players in the [competition], if not now, then soon" and Fox Sports Australia reporter, Sarah Olle, wrote he had a "match-winning flair" whereby he is "strong through the hips, dangerous in front of goal and has the perfect balance between swagger and determination that lifts his teammates."[92] Riley Beveridge further commended him when he compared Petracca to Hawthorn's 2015 Norm Smith Medallist, Cyril Rioli, due to his influence as a forward-midfielder.[93]

Although the external praise on Petracca throughout the season was high, Sam Edmund noted his performances throughout the season justified the praise as he was "walking the walk".[1] During the thirty-eight point win against Essendon at Etihad Stadium in round six, Petracca recorded a career-high four goals[94] and was named in Melbourne's best players by AFL Media.[95] He was named the best player on the ground for the annual Queen's Birthday clash in the four point win over Collingwood, in which he recorded eighteen disposals, seven marks and three goals and won the Neale Daniher Trophy after receiving eight out of a possible nine votes.[96] He was praised for his performance in the match by Chris Judd who stated Petracca's acceleration was "elite".[97] Furthermore, he was named in AFL Media's team of the week on three occasions.[98][99][100] Despite the amount of praise he received during the season, he failed to make the final 22under22 team, a team decided by fan votes.[101]

Statistics

Statistics are correct to the end of the 2019 season [75]
Legend
 G  Goals  B  Behinds  K  Kicks  H  Handballs  D  Disposals  M  Marks  T  Tackles
Season Team No. Games G B K H D M T G B K H D M T Votes
Totals Averages (per game)
2015 Melbourne 2600
2016 Melbourne 517121114415229642560.70.78.58.917.42.53.30
2017 Melbourne 52226618123341472541.20.38.210.618.83.32.52
2018 Melbourne 524192326821848695730.81.011.29.120.34.03.00
2019 Melbourne 522221421219941189651.00.69.69.018.74.03.0TBA
Career 85 79 54 805 802 1607 298 248 0.9 0.6 9.5 9.4 18.9 3.5 3.0 2

Honours and achievements

Individual

References

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