Young Defender making his mark.

Young Defender making his mark.

VFL (50 of 158) (600x800)Prior to the first practice match of the 2016 season, Coburg had signed 10 Calder Cannons.

In a case of unlikely events, it soon thereafter became eleven.

Going into the Development Leagues Good Friday season dress rehearsal with the Northern Blues, a reasonably large injury list meant the Lions were forced to find reinforcements from local football.

One of them came in the form of Luke Ryan.

A Calder Cannon who was listed in 2015, Luke left RAMS Arena early in the season, citing a lack of interest and a loss of motivation for pursuing the game at a higher level. After an impressive 2014 season at Maribyrnong Park which saw him officially join Calder, Luke’s impressive form saw him receive draft interest.

Despite only spending less than 12 months with the Cannons, Luke described it as nothing but a learning experience.

“It was tough. I work as an apprentice carpenter during the week and get up at 5AM. So to get to Highgate by 5PM three times a week was demanding. The higher level of football you go to play, the harder you have to work. I also made friends and played my footy with some great guys.”

At the end of 2016, Luke decided to train with Essendon, with the intent of earning a spot on their VFL list.However, prior to the list lodgements, Luke was not named in the squad. It appeared destined he would play the season out in the Essendon District Football League.

Despite failing to make the cut, Luke said he learnt a lot from his short stint with the VFL Bombers.

“As I said before, I learnt that the higher the level of footy you go, the harder you have to work.”

List Manager Sebastian Spagnuolo, who coached Luke at EDFL Division 2 side Moonee Valley, where they were runners up in the senior competition in 2013, gave Luke one last opportunity to decide whether or not Coburg was the right fit for him to play VFL football.

Impressing on limited game time, Luke showed glimpses of his talent as the Blues comfortably kicked away from a depleted lions side.

With Craig Lees and Peter German well aware and having witnessed his talent while at Calder, and with Luke still having the desire and ambition to play at the highest level possible, Luke was officially signed for the 2016 season on the Easter Monday.

“The opportunity to play a level of high standard football and having mates from the Calder Cannons made it an easy decision in the end to play with Coburg, and Sebastian is a great guy and a lot of fun to be around.” Luke said.

Beginning the season in the Development League, a best on ground performance in the big round two win where he managed three goals up forward against Port Melbourne was enough to impress Senior Coach German. As a result, he would receive a sooner than expected senior debut as 23rd man. It was considered a baptism of fire for Luke, coming up against arguably the competitions benchmark of the past three seasons, the Box Hill Hawks.

No one had given the Lions a chance considering where both clubs were at. Being relatively unknown to the VFL competition, Luke on debut turned in a sterling performance down back. 30 possessions, 10 rebound 50’s and 12 marks (5 contested), Luke managed to virtually do everything on the day- except for remembering the name of the opposition in his post-match speech- saying Sandringham instead of Box Hill.

“As it was my first senior game, I was very nervous, but also excited- getting best on ground was more than I could’ve hoped for. I could not have done it without my team mates.”

A few weeks later, Coburg came up against Essendon on a Sunday afternoon at Piranha Park. Going into the game 0-5, Coburg went in as slight underdogs. Luke, in just his 4th senior game was coming up against the side who he had spent the majority of the pre-season with. Luke played a starring role in defence racking up 25 possessions across halfback as the Lions went onto record their first victory of the season.

Recalling being a part of his first senior win, Ryan recalls “I was wrapped. It felt great and I really enjoyed the atmosphere in the rooms afterwards.”

However, a week after his heroics, Luke went from experiencing the Ecstasy of Footy, to the Agony. During the second quarter of the round seven clash against the Northern Blues at Preston City Oval, Luke suffered damaged ligaments in his ankle which would result in him missing out on the next three rounds of football.

“I was just more than determined to do everything in my power to get out back out with the boys again,” Luke recalled during his stint out of the side.

Luke made a solid return to football in the Development League clash with Port Melbourne, playing a crucial role down back as the young Lions held out an improved but inaccurate Port Melbourne.

The performance was enough to earn him a recall for the crucial round twelve clash with Werribee. Playing in his regular role across the halfback line, Luke’s industrious efforts down back the entire day were vital in Coburg notching up their fourth win of the season against an experienced Tiger outfit.

“I thought I played my role real well, and I was simply glad to be back out there once again with the boys.”

While Luke undoubtedly harbouring AFL ambitions, he models his game on Collingwood swingman Ben Reid and describes going about it as “I train hard and try to learn from the experiences from people around me.”

While Luke regards the likes of fellow Cannons and school mates Ricky Schraven and Ben Allan as his teammates he is best equipped with, he also holds Tom Goodwin in that regard too. However externally, two others he also credits with an influence on his football.

“My Dad and my Pop- they put a footy in my hands at the age of three. They have supported me ever since.”

Luke also credits Craig Lees and Peter German with making his transition to the VFL as best as possible. “They encourage me to play my own game and give me great advice. They are also great people.”

General Manager Craig Lees, said “Luke has had a profound impact since commencing in March. His ability to read the play and set up attack from defence is elite.  Luke's performances have warranted AFL attention, so hopefully he keeps learning the game in the second half of the season, and we as a club can give him the best opportunity and pathway to the elite level.”

Undoubtedly one of the recruits of the season for the Lions, Luke’s contribution to the club in his short time so far has been one of the stories of the first half of 2016 and we look forward to seeing what the second half of the season has in store for him.