The club coach of the AFL’s biggest 2023 draft shock has revealed the “whirlwind” rise to the big time for Phoenix Gothard.
Gothard stunned the room when he was taken at pick 12 by the GWS Giants on Monday.
In attendance at the draft event at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne simply as a guest of best friend and eventual No.11 pick, Geelong recruit Connor O’Sullivan, Gothard was stunned when his name was read out one pick after his mate.
AS IT HAPPENED: Every pick from the first round of the 2023 AFL draft
Surrounded by his friends, who were also guests of O’Sullivan, Gothard was quickly mobbed and had his Murray Bushrangers polo ripped off by his ecstatic mates in a draft celebration for the ages.
Gothard eventually had to borrow O’Sullivan’s as he walked up on to the stage to meet former Giants skipper Phil Davis.
Gothard and his mates continued to jump around in delight, well after AFL CEO Andrew Dillon read out the 18-year-old’s name.
Accepting his jumper from Davis, Gothard was extremely emotional on stage, with his mother and sister also last-minute invitees to the event.
His best friend, Geelong’s newest key defender O’Sullivan, was even seen ditching Cats legend, four-time premiership champion Joel Selwood, right after being drafted, to rush over and celebrate Gothard’s shock selection upon hearing his name on the speakers.
Speaking on Nine’s Today on Tuesday morning, Gothard’s Albury Tigers coach Shaun Daly revealed the 18-year-old only began focusing on footy in the past year, and didn’t play his first senior game until late last season.
“He was a big cricketer growing up …. (but) in the last 12 months he decided to focus on footy,” he said.
“It’s been a whirlwind for him, from playing under 18s footy to now, getting pick No.12 is amazing.”
Daly said Gothard was “quiet” and a “shyer-type kid”.
“He’s got pace to burn … the way he’s come on in the last 12 months, I think (the Giants) have seen a lot of potential in him,” he said.
“He still looks like a 15-year-old boy at the moment, but I’m sure he will grow into a big fella soon.”
Daly said he had no concerns about Gothard moving from the regional city of Albury to the big smoke of Sydney.
“That will be a big transition for him, (but) he’s pretty mature, even though he doesn’t look that old.
“He has a good head on his shoulders. He’s very mature – just loves his sport, whatever it is.
“I am sure he will thrive up there.”
Giants recruiting manager Adrian Caruso praised Gothard, who was predicted to go as low as pick 30 by some draft experts, saying the club is excited to see what tricks he can bring on field.
“Phoenix is a small forward that we feel is a great fit for us,” Caruso said via the Giants website on Monday night.
“He plays in a way that suits the style we have adopted over the past 12 months, and he has attributes to succeed at the next level.
“Given it was his first year in the program this year we feel he will go to another level when in a full-time environment.
“He’s a player of talent in the front half, he can dazzle and weave his way out of trouble as well as anyone.”
Daly said everyone at Albury Tigers were rapt for the pair.
“Everyone around Albury, the Tigers community, to have two guys go (as) pick 11 and 12, best mates growing up, had a lot to do with each other, we are so proud of those two boys.”