Whether at the uncharacteristically calm days at Trevor Barker Oval this year, Xavier College’s Roche Oval, or wherever there is a contest, one thing is for certain when AFL scouts watch 2021 NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft prospect Max Heath.
He will play on the edge.
“I try to pride my game on my aggression because if my teammates see me play at an aggressive level, it makes them want to do it,” Heath said.
Coach Jackson Kornberg sees his assertiveness through his work as an extra midfielder.
“I think Max’s real strength is his follow up work around the stoppage,” Kornberg said.
“His [tackling numbers] speak to his aggression and hunger to work in tight and defend.”
“Around the ground he’s really assertive. His ability to get to multiple contests in a row has improved, I hadn’t seen that a couple of years ago but now it’s a real highlight.”
So what does Heath put his aggression down to?
“Having two brothers at home has made me have to be a bit tougher,” he said.
Heath was pragmatic when asked about his footy with the Dragons in the first month of the season, after ankle surgery in September inhibited his preseason.
“I’ve only been back to normal fitness in the last month or so.”
The operation resulted in Heath needing to build up his calf muscles again before round one, playing through some pain with Sandy but dominating in Xavier College’s undefeated first five games of the season.
The absence of footy robbed him of the opportunity to demonstrate his capabilities, but conversations with various clubs prepared him for the types of questions asked ahead of this year’s midseason draft.
“I was more focussed on my fitness level last year, doing some running sessions with my strength and conditioning coach at ‘Xavs’ and putting on extra (weight) in the gym.”
“I want to show that I can maintain my hard work at the level so I want to prove people wrong in a sense which motivates me and adds a level of competitiveness to my game.”
This season Heath has acted on feedback from his coaches about his marking, an area he identified as wanting to improve, which Kornberg has noticed.
"He’s starting to take a lot more marks around the ground,” Kornberg said.
“He mightn’t statistically get a lot of marks but he turns up at a lot of contests, particularly in the back half, where he is able to spoil contests.”
When asked about the midseason draft, Heath said: “I’m not expecting it and I’ll try not to get my hopes up. If it happens it happens, if not, there’ll be other chances to prove myself.”
The 204cm prospect is seen as a project player for AFL clubs with athletic attributes.