Cameron Rayner has become the first Western Jets player to be taken No.1 overall in an AFL National Draft.
Rayner became hot property after a stellar top-age season with the Jets in the TAC Cup and with Vic Metro at the under-18 national championships, with the Brisbane Lions using their first selection in the draft to secure his services.
The Hillside Sharks/Essendon Doutta Stars product was the centre of much speculation in the lead-up to the draft, with cameras capturing his every move on draft day.
But when the moment arrived, even Rayner was none the wiser about where he would land until a text message came through from his manager.
“My manager sent me a little lion emoji on my phone and that’s when I knew,” he told Star Weekly.
Rayner rose to the top of recruiter wish lists in a remarkable 2017 season, with his play for Vic Metro at the nationals sealing his place at the top of a talented pile of star young players.
The 18-year-old turned heads with his bull-at-a-gate style of play and his ability to rise in the big moments of matches.
Rayner has admitted his endurance running needs to improve for him to become a full-time midfielder at the next level, but from the moment his name was called out, he was keen to get into the elite training environment at the Lions and waste no time in his bid to become the best player he can.
“I switched straight into game mode,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to getting up there, really excited to start training.”
Rayner, a cornerstone of Vic Metro’s run to the under-18 national title, did allow himself the chance to reflect on a successful junior career and enjoy the draft outcome with his family. He particularly enjoyed sharing the moment with his grandparents, who made the trip to Sydney for the draft with the rest of his family.
“I think it’s important that we enjoyed the moment that we’ve had and I got to spend it with my family and friends, so I just loved it,” he said. “Everyone was pretty calm, but I think my sister cried a little bit.”
Rayner quickly realised the enormity of his achievement when he spoke to Western Jets coach Torin Baker, who informed him that he was the first Jets player taken with first pick.
“It’s huge to think of some of the players that have come out of the Jets,” he said. “That’s just a huge honour as well.”
Rayner was already getting to know his Brisbane Lions teammates at the weekend.
His phone was buzzing with phone calls and text messages welcoming him to the club.
One of three Jets taken in the draft – along with midfielder Lachlan Fogarty, who landed at Geelong with pick 22, and ruck-forward Tristan Xerri, who went to North Melbourne with pick 72 – Rayner is not daunted by being the only Jets player moving interstate.
“I had a couple of FaceTime calls and they’re super excited to have me up there and I’m excited to be up there,” Rayner said.
“I’m pretty much going on my own, but I’ve got Toby Wooller from the Oakleigh Chargers, who I’m pretty good mates with, we’re going up there.
“My manager sent me a little lion emoji on my phone and that’s when I knew,” he told Star Weekly“I’m pretty happy – it’s a fresh start and I’ll try to earn my spot.”Ca