Top draft pick Dylan Stephens isn’t letting COVID-19 ruin his AFL dream

Posted 01 May 2020
Sport and Athletic Development

Jocelyn Airth, The Daily Telegraph, first published 1 May, 2020 7.52am.

Dylan Stephens was ready to make an impact at the Swans. Picture: Phil Hillyard.
Dylan Stephens was ready to make an impact at the Swans. Picture: Phil Hillyard

Dylan Stephens enjoyed the perfect pre-season. He’d topped Sydney’s 2km time trial, bulked right up and was turning heads on the track. But just before the fun really started, he was back on a plane to Adelaide. The Sydney Swans’ No. 5 draft pick Dylan Stephens enjoyed the perfect pre-season. The 19-year-old had topped the club’s 2km time trials, bulked right up and was turning the heads of both teammates and coaches down at Moore Park. But Stephens’ dream of making his AFL debut was brought to a halt the minute COVID-19 shutdown the 2020 season.

“You don’t know how things would unfold, but that was the most annoying thing, I felt like I wasn’t too far off the mark,” Stephens said.

“It’s pretty frustrating really, we did all that pre-season and hard work, got through it all. We just got to the fun stuff — and it all ended.” Stephens said he had remained positive through isolation and trains regularly with teammate Will Hayward in Adelaide.

“We went to school together at St Peter’s College, our old strength and conditioning coach there owns a gym so we reached out to him and he’s lent us gear for the time being,” Stephens said.

“It helps having Will around, we keep each other accountable. It can be different when you’re alone, especially with weights, you’ve got to find motivation. But once you’re in a routine, that all comes quickly.”

From the highs of draft night and moving interstate, to the lows of the season postponement and rushing back to Adelaide, Stephens admitted his maiden season hadn’t panned out the way he thought it would.

But the youngster is going with the flow. And he feels supported by his club — even if it’s 1375km away.

“I remember there were rumours on the TV, we were waiting around for a message from someone from the Swans, then suddenly we had to start booking flights, heading home with no idea when we’re going to be back,” Stephens said.

“I’m not struggling mentally, but it’s frustrating. But it’s not just me, everyone’s going through it and that’s what’s getting me through. We’re all in the same boat, people are starting to listen, isolating themselves and helping flatten the curve.”