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Luke Dunstan: ‘I want to show I can go to that next level’

Before he was drafted by St Kilda, Luke Dunstan forged his footy skills in the Clare Valley – around two hours north of Adelaide. He went One on One with Tom Staggard to talk about his journey so far, and what lies ahead for the 2019 AFL season.

Tom Staggard: Can you take me back to your time growing up in South Australia. Whereabouts did you grow up and where did you spend most of your time as a kid?

Luke Dunstan: I grew up in the Clare Valley, which is about two hours from Adelaide.

I pretty much played footy there until I was about 15 and that is about the age where the underage stuff sort of happens down in town.

Our zone was with Woodville West Torrens so I started there in under 15s and played about six games during a bit of a trial process.

I was lucky enough to play in the bottom age in the 16s then over the next three or four years I went through all the sides and played 18s, ressies and a few games of league.

Through the 17s and 18s years there was also the state squads and the AFL Academy squads so it was a pretty busy period.

I owe a lot to my parents because they were doing all the trips to Adelaide three times a week so it was certainly a bit rough on them.

TS: What was family life like for you? Did you come from a sporting family?

LD: Yeah, I had two older brothers and back in Clare it was always playing footy in the winter and cricket in the summer and if you didn’t, you played tennis.

My family was big on cricket so we did that.

Mum was pretty good at her netball, but stopped playing when she had kids, while dad played country footy too so it was a little bit in the blood for me. Because I had those two older brothers, I started to learn things a bit quicker at a younger age.

TS: What else took up your time as a kid?

LD: I guess being the country I just mucked around with my mates and made my own fun because there wasn’t much going on out there.

We went camping a bit and my cousins had a farm so we often went out there and rode motorbikes.

By the time I got to about 15 footy was taking up a fair bit of my time and trying to balance that with school became the main focus.

TS: Fast forward to now as you look ahead to season 2019. What are you really focused on?

LD: I’m actually feeling a lot fresher than I have in previous seasons because (St Kilda) have changed our program up a little bit which is really helping the boys.

The club changed the period over Christmas so we had three weeks off instead of two weeks, which I think breaks it up a bit.

As we’re starting to come into games now, you get a little bit nervous but it’s a good thing I guess.

TS: Are you a nervous type? Do you get nervous before games?

LD: I used to be when I was a bit younger, but I’m all good now.

You learn that you’ve done the work and you don’t need to stress too much.

TS: The club has been going through a rebuild and it has a young core. Given where you are in your career, do you feel that added bit of responsibility to set that example and lead some of the younger players?

LD: Yeah, I guess I do.

I’ve played 85 games now and I’m out of contract at the end of this year, so I’m at the stage now where I want to show that I’m established enough and I can go to that next level.

That’s the test for me this year and it’s really exciting.

The club has a bit of a point to prove off the back of the way we played last year so we’re looking to turn things around.

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Tom grew up in Adelaide’s northern suburbs and is our resident North American sports expert. Tom has experience as a working journalist and has a keen interest in basketball, ice hockey and American football, as well as cricket, soccer and football. He spent his junior cricket career at East Torrens District and has played for a number of football clubs across Adelaide’s north.