FOLLOWING his address at the AJAX Footy Club President’s Lunch on Saturday, North Melbourne Football Club player (and former AJAX player), Harry Sheezel spoke exclusively with The AJN.
Chatting with Marina Yuksel, Harry shared how he’s handled the hype around his stellar debut, let us in on his pre-match rituals, reflected on the support of the Jewish community and gave his best advice to any young AFL hopefuls.
Watch The AJN’s exclusive interview with Harry Sheezel here:
Sheezel returns to his AJAX roots
Proudly wearing an AJAX footy scarf last Saturday while returning to the club where his incredible footy journey began, Harry Sheezel thanked the Jewish community for its “consistent support and genuine care”, while offering insights about his debut AFL season so far, as the keynote speaker at the annual President’s Lunch at Gary Smorgon Oval, Albert Park.
Speaking to The AJN’s Marina Yuksel in an exclusive interview following the event, the 18-year-old North Melbourne Kangaroos recruit and pick 3 in the 2022 AFL draft said, “The whole Jewish community has been so amazing, and it means a lot.
“AJAX was so good to me, from U9s to U16s, and then to the seniors, and I’ve known so many people from this club forever – and still get in contact with them – so it’s great to come back.”
At the halfway point of the season, the recent Mount Scopus College graduate’s form has been very impressive, playing mostly at half back, but also two games at half forward, which he views as his main position in the long term.
He was nominated in round 1 for the Rising Star Award in a first-up win over the West Coast Eagles, and has averaged 26.7 disposals per game after 14 rounds, with 5.8 marks, 2.8 tackles and 430.8 metres gained.
He told The AJN he is “loving the full-time environment of it all, training every day, doing extra sessions, focusing on my diet, trying to get better every day and being competitive on game day”.
“I’m not really fussed about [being in contention for] the Rising Star Award – that’s not what I’m playing for … and I think that really helps to take away the pressure,” Sheezel said.
“If you just focus, week to week, on what you can do for the team, and on what the coaches want, then the rest will take care of itself.”
He rates playing so well in his debut match and singing the team song in the rooms as his top personal highlights thus far, and then kicking his first goal in round 5.
“It was all kind of a blur … and then all the boys were getting around me – it was pretty special.”
Signed by the Kangaroos for two additional seasons, Sheezel feels at home at North Melbourne, and although the team has struggled, he is confident “the club’s going in a really positive direction”.
“We have such a good group of boys and a great culture at the club – everyone’s really close, and wants each other to succeed.”
When asked for his best advice to youngsters hoping to become AFL players one day, Sheezel said, “Work hard, consistently … as it all adds up.”
“You shouldn’t need to motivate yourself to do something you love, and that’s why I still, to this day, just want to do everything I can to get better.”
In a Q&A at the event with former AJAX Footy Club president Ronnie Lewis, Sheezel said he feels blessed to have such a supportive family, and revealed that his dad, Dean, “is the one that, after a game, I’ll speak to first, as I really value his opinion more than anyone, even my coaches”.
Sheezel told Lewis that, fortunately, he has not experienced any more antisemitic comments by trolls on social media since the night before the 2022 AFL draft, when some appeared on The Age’s Facebook site.
“Being Jewish in a not-so-Jewish sport … I kind of just feel like I’m normal, like all the other boys, but it’s great to have the [Jewish] community behind me.”