The Fish That Won’t Stop Swimming – Sam Fisher’s road to AFL redemption

In 2016, Sam Fisher fulfilled his childhood dream when he was selected in the AFL’s Rookie Draft by the Sydney Swans. But, after a year of playing and training alongside the likes of Callum Mills, Kieran Jack and Isaac Heeney, the 19-year-old was given the heartbreaking news that he was going to be delisted.

Pushing his way past players such as Will Hayward, Oliver Florent and Tom Papley to earn one of the small forward roles in Sydney’s team proved a tall order for the former GWS GIANTS Academy member.

“It just didn’t go my way at the Swans,” Fisher said.

Experiencing the highs and lows of what the AFL system can bring, the Canberra product recalls the afternoon his AFL dream ended abruptly.

“I trained with the squad that morning and they told me to hang around at the club and watch the rookie draft,” he said.

“I stayed and watched the draft on TV with a few other boys and I didn’t see my name come across the screen, John Longmire, Sydney’s Coach, came in and said to me, sorry we’ve had to make the call, but we ended up choosing AJ (Alex Johnson).

“It was honestly so hard to believe because I’d had such a great year in NEAFL, I thought I’d done everything to deserve another year on the list.”

Two years on, Fisher is refusing to give up on his AFL dream, he signed with Carlton’s VFL side, the Northern Blues in 2018, fighting his way back into draft contention.

“After I was delisted I sat down with my manager to discuss my next move, I knew that I still wanted to pursue a career in the AFL and I had what it takes to play at the highest level, so when my manager recommended the VFL as the best possible destination, I didn’t hesitate.”

Following a breakout debut campaign in the VFL Fisher was invited to train with Carlton ahead of the NAB AFL Draft last year.

“Arriving at Carlton, I had a brief understanding of what pre-season was going to be like, as most AFL clubs are pretty similar,” Fisher said.

“Sydney’s training standards are second to none, that winning mentality is why they are one of the most successful clubs in AFL.”

Following a month of extensive training with the Blues’ he was informed the club wouldn’t be selecting him in the draft, another blow to the 20-year-olds aspirations of playing AFL football.

“Going into training with Carlton I went in with an open mind,” he said.

“I wasn’t focused on getting drafted, but instead putting my best foot forward for 2019.

“Even though I didn’t get picked up, I still managed to put myself in a better position to prove myself in VFL this year.

“I’d got my fitness to that of an AFL standard and added some valuable experience to my game.”

Similar to many other AFL Draft prospects, Fisher will find out his final destination later this month, but if his name isn’t called, he says his passions outside of football hold him in good stead for the future.

“I know that at the end of the day, AFL is just a game, I’m studying engineering, which gives me a good balance and takes my mind away from football.

“If it doesn’t work out in the AFL, I’ve still got other passions outside of football that I’m excited to pursue.”

Fisher’s talent is undeniable, but it is his passion and desire to return to AFL that could inspire a great redemption story. AFL NSW/ACT wish Sam all the best in his career.