Injury has provided a backdrop for much of Frank Anderson’s promising football career, but the Northern Blues midfielder found enough consistency in 2019 to present himself as a prospect for November 27-28’s NAB AFL Draft.
The 22-year-old arrived at Northern this year following two Eastern FL Division 1 premiership campaigns at South Croydon, with those breakout 2017-18 seasons ending a long stretch when a debilitating hip condition interrupted his development.
Anderson first suffered the effects of the condition as a 15-year-old and had to wait until late in his draft year in 2015 to have major corrective surgery.
He missed making the squad for NAB League team the Eastern Ranges in the time being and then struggled to capture fitness and form in 2016 when at the Casey Demons, playing just seven Development League games as he recovered from the operation.
Upon his return to the Hard Yakka / Totally Workwear VFL this season, 186cm Anderson displayed the power and versatility he hadn’t been able to previously, averaging 20 disposals, 5.5 tackles, four clearances and four inside-50s per game in 12 matches for the Blues.
“As a young junior, I was more than capable playing at South Croydon,” Anderson said. “It got to around Year 9 when these hip troubles really set in.
“I couldn’t really do anything about it until I had this major operation done, and after any big surgery like that, it takes you a little bit of time to get back into the rhythm.
“I was well and truly behind the eight-ball from the start at Casey; I pretty much had to learn how to move properly again. I was also a little bit taken aback by the VFL standard, so I don’t think I was mentally or physically ready for that step up.
“I’ve always had the athletic ability and my running has never been a problem. It was just a matter of getting my hips right and getting a little bit stronger to be able to compete at the level.”
Anderson resisted the temptation to join his 2017 South Croydon coach Leigh Adams at Coburg this year and instead signed with Northern to play alongside friends like Mason Blakey, Kane Keppel and Jordan Lynch.
Learning from the likes of clearance specialist Sam Fisher on the field and sidelined skipper Tom Wilson off it, Anderson took on a range of midfield roles for the Blues and ended up with an invite to the recent Victorian State Combine.
— Northern Blues FC (@NBluesFC) October 11, 2019
“I’m fairly dynamic in that I can play a few different roles,” he said. “This season I played as an inside midfielder, as an outside midfielder on the wing and I also had a couple of tagging jobs.
“I feel comfortable playing all of those roles. I’ve played off half-back in the past and I’ve had stints up forward too, so I suppose that flexibility appeals to AFL clubs.”
Two particular tagging jobs helped put Anderson on the radar of clubs ahead of May’s AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft.
He first worked to quell the influence of prolific Collingwood VFL co-captain Alex Woodward after the latter’s hot start to an encounter in Round 3, before then limiting omitted North Melbourne AFL ball-winner Aaron Hall to just 13 disposals two weeks later.
The subsequent Mid-Season Draft snub gave Anderson the impression that AFL clubs just wanted to see more of him at VFL level. Luckily, his body allowed him to deliver – for the most part.
“I’d spoken to a few AFL clubs and my feeling was that I was still behind a few others,” Anderson said. “I’ve definitely grown since that time. I’m feeling as strong and fit as I’ve ever been, so I suppose it held me in good stead for the end of the year.
“I wasn’t too sure where I sat going into the season. I knew I could make an impact; it was probably more about my consistency. I got suspended for two matches, I had a sore shoulder for two and I was also sick for two games, but outside of that I felt my consistency was quite good.
“It would have been nice to play the full 18 games, but it was definitely a successful first season in the VFL.”
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