Kieran Strachan spent his whole life dreaming of playing in the AFL.
But after being overlooked by clubs as a teenager, he was left struggling to hold on to hope.
It wasn’t until two years ago, at the age of 21, Kieran started to come into his own.
Back-to-back best and fairest awards with South Bendigo secured a call up to Essendon’s VFL side, where he played two games in 2017.
That was until a tear in his ankle put a stop to his season.
As he picked himself up in 2018, with a clear goal to prove himself at VFL level, now with Port Melbourne, a broken tibia sidelined the 202cm ruckman once again.
ROOKIE DRAFT: Crows add ruck depth
For the second-consecutive year, the 23-year-old approached the draft period carrying a serious injury.
So, you can imagine his surprise when he was called with Adelaide’s first selection in the 2018 rookie draft.
It was so unexpected, he wasn’t even watching.
“We didn’t actually realise it was on at the time but we thought we better put it on and we happened to see it on the internet and my name popped up so it was pretty exciting,” he said.
“I broke my leg during the year, so [getting drafted] was a bit of a surprise.
“Having that injury set back was disappointing at the time and I thought it might put an end to the season just gone but next thing I ended up here.”
If his challenging road to the AFL has taught him anything, it is resilience – one of the key attributes recruiting manager Hamish Ogilvie looks for in draftees.
“Being 23, I’ve gone out there and worked a little and got my Uni degree in business so I guess I’ve got different experiences [to the younger draftees],” he said.
“Getting to here has definitely been something I’ve had to work hard on and definitely be resilient after getting knocked back a few times, so now to make it is really good.”
Despite never living in the state’s capital, Kieran’s family made a special connection with the city many years ago.
Turns out, he’s not the first of his siblings to represent Adelaide as a professional athlete.
His older sister is Australian netball star Rebecca Bulley (nee Strachan), who spent over a decade playing international and domestic netball around the country.
“Bec played here with the Adelaide Thunderbirds when they won their last premiership in 2013 so Adelaide’s very familiar to me… it’s a lot like home,” he said.
“She’s achieved everything she wanted to achieve: winning gold at the World Cup , silver at the Commonwealth Games  – so playing at the highest level I can, like an AFL game, is something I want to do too.
“She’s taken the path that I’m now taking so getting as much information from her has been really helpful.”
Bec is not the only one he plans to call on for guidance, as he lines up alongside a player he’s admired for many years: Sam Jacobs.
“He’s got a wealth of knowledge and he’s been playing at the top level for a long time so learning off something like him is a bit nerve-wracking but I’m loving it,” he said.
“I’ll certainly take as much away as I can from him.”
The goal is always to play senior footy, but for Kieran, he’s just as excited to learn from the new players around him.
“I just want to develop my game and my size first and foremost… the goal is to play AFL so I’ll work myself up to that level and make sure when I am given that chance I’ll grab it with both hands,” he said.
“It’s pretty surreal, it doesn’t really like I’m meant to be here [at West Lakes] yet but I’m sure with time I’ll get used to it.”
Source: Adelaide Crows website