The rapid rise of Leeton’s Cooper Sharman

Originally published by fox 

Eight months ago, the last thing on Cooper Sharman’s mind was getting drafted.

In fact, the teenager had just moved from his home town of Leeton in country New South Wales to live on campus at Deakin University in Victoria, where he would study a Business/Commerce degree.

The one-time GWS Academy member tried his luck at Balwyn Football Club, in the local Eastern Football League, under the guidance of former AFL coach Rodney ‘Rocket’ Eade.

But it all soon changed, after recruiters became aware of a lanky forward who could leap high and hit the scoreboard at local level.

“(I) played majority of first grade, I got dropped a couple of times into the seconds, (but) I enjoyed my time in the Eastern Football League, it was pretty tough,” Sharman explained to

“The boys at Balwyn got around me, bit of youth in the team as it was an older team. I was playing good footy at Balwyn then got called up to Oakleigh and was straight in the side there. I played seven or eight games and played in a premiership – it was the last thing I expected. It has been a whirlwind.

“There was a couple of games where there were recruiters there. There was a bit of talk about it. I was going out to warm up against Blackburn and a couple of boys said they saw recruiters. The nerves go up a bit when clubs come out to watch local footy. It didn’t faze me too much when I got out there.

“I think I went alright, kicked three goals and took a couple of marks in the wet.”

Sharman’s influence on the recruiters was clear, as the 192cm forward earned an invite to the national combine held in October.

As for the guidance from ‘Rocket’, Sharman declared he was “really approachable” and was “awesome” for his development.

“I was a bit nervous coming down when he was going to be coach but he’s been awesome,” he said.

“No individual (sprays), but a couple of good team sprays.”

Sharman could’ve been a Giant if not for a differing of opinion, with the club dumping him after pre-season contests.

“I did a full pre-season heading into a top-age year, so last year and I probably didn’t play well enough in the trial games to get selected,” he said.

“I definitely thought I was good enough to make the side and it still burns my belly and I want to prove them wrong that I was good enough to be there.”

Bouncing back with 13 senior goals for Balwyn and 14 goals in eight appearances for the Chargers, Sharman looms as a prospect likely to find a home on night two of the draft.

As for what has changed since missing out on the academy squad, Sharman believes he was now a more trusted prospect in terms of what recruiters were looking for.

“Probably just the consistency in my footy (has improved),” he said.

“Last couple of years as a 17 or 18-year-old, I was good in patches but couldn’t string two or three games together in a row. But this year I’ve been able to do that and been able to perform for a whole game.

“Not coming into the year with any expectations makes it easier. If it doesn’t happen well then that wasn’t my goal at the start of the year.

“I’ve got something to fall back on, I’d have a crack at VFL footy and continue my studies.”