Not many people would be able to point out Katamatite on a map.
With a population just over 400 people, it is one of the smallest towns in Victoria.
Like so many country communities around Australia, footy is its lifeblood.
Unsurprisingly its biggest feature is its oval and that’s where Port Adelaide’s newest tall defender spent his childhood kicking the footy around for the local club.
Tom Clurey was at home in Invergordon - just minutes from Katatamite - when Port Adelaide’s national recruiting manager Geoff Parker read his name out at pick 29 in November’s national draft.
Watching the draft on television with his family some 800 kilometres from the base of his new employer, Clurey quickly packed his bags and travelled to the Power’s training and administrative base at Alberton Oval within days.
His introduction to the club, its history and successes combined with introductions to coaches, staff and teammates alike.
It made for several whirlwind weeks.
Initially training to a modified program, Clurey was expected to quickly hold his own and shortly joined Port Adelaide’s main group in the rigorous summer training program spearheaded by high performance manager Darren Burgess.
What an experience this six weeks must have been for the 18-year-old, especially when he was oblivious to whether he would be drafted at all, let alone clocking the kilometres on the track with Port Adelaide just weeks out from the 2013 NAB Cup.
He told portadelaidefc.com.au
of the uncertainty he experienced on draft night – a feeling common to many draftees below the coveted first round.
“I was just sitting at home with family and I was a bit surprised [when selected],” Clurey says of his selection.
“I didn’t really know what to expect or where I would go until my name came up on the telly.”
While recruiters tend to select the best available player with their initial pick, the second and subsequent rounds of the draft provide scope for teams to fill gaps in their list.
With the club on record saying it needed to bolster its defence, Clurey was adjudged the best man at pick 29 to supplement those needs.
Like fellow draftee Oliver Wines,
Clurey leaves a small country Victorian town to pursue the AFL dream at an interstate club.
But on his drafting by the Power, Clurey is emphatic:
“I’m really happy to be here.”
Like many young country players, Clurey played above his age in junior competitions that grouped many ages into a single division.
“I played for Katamatite starting in the U14s at the age of eight,” explains Clurey.
“I started pretty young and was pretty little compared to the older kids but got used to that over a few years.
"Being tall for my age really helped back then.
“Then when I was about 12 or 13 I played up in under 17s so that was again a big experience.”
His height is an asset that helped him withstand the bigger and older bodies he went against in those early years.
It’s also the asset he will rely on most if presented the opportunity to stand opposition forwards in the big league.
His height and fitness base saw him draw the interest of several clubs as a bona fide tall defender following his selection in Victoria’s country side for the 2012 U18 national championships and performance in the AFL draft combine.
He described representing the state as a rare opportunity and a great experience – one where he could test his skills against the best young players in the country.
It was with those players that he was reviewed and scrutinised under the spotlight of the combine.
There he topped the beep test with a 15.1 performance.
He was the only candidate to reach that level.
But it was not in the national championships, but rather the highly regarded TAC Cup where Clurey primarily learned the qualities expected of an AFL player.
“The professionalism of the TAC Cup was a big help,” he says.
“It was a big step up coming from Katty [Katamatite] where you can do your own thing and just flow along – the Bushrangers taught me how professional you have to be to make it to the next level.
“Here at Port Adelaide it’s another massive step up.”
Clurey joins fellow Bushrangers alumnus Alipate Carlile in the Power’s defensive line group.
Under defensive coach Matthew Nicks, Clurey’s height and speed will be refined to fit within a new football vision at Port Adelaide under Ken Hinkley.
While he will more than likely commence his season in the SANFL like so many first-year draftees to South Australia’s two AFL clubs, Clurey is determined to settle into life in Adelaide and learn the ropes at Alberton.
There is a long road ahead.
Even his own endurance ability hasn’t kept Clurey from feeling the strain of the club’s intense summer training program.
“I was eased into the pre-season early on so that I didn’t burn out and could get used to the tempo,” explains Clurey.
“The [training] intensity is totally different to local footy and even TAC Cup where you train for just a few hours a week.
“It’s been tiring and there’s been long days when you start early and finish late.
“But I really find it enjoyable.”
Stay tuned to portadelaidefc.com.au for the rest of our new player features in the lead up to the NAB Cup in February.
Read more about the Power’s new recruits at our features page.