NICK Bourke is living the dream — and loving it.
Like many young country lads, Bourke dreamt of one day playing AFL football.
In November last year that dream moved closer to becoming a reality when the Kolora-Noorat teen was selected by Geelong at pick 31 in the rookie draft.
Since his selection Bourke has thrown himself into his first pre-season with the Cats in what is a labour of love for the talented 18-year-old.
“I love it,” Bourke said when asked about his new-found occupation as an AFL footballer.
“Growing up you watch the footy on the television and you dream of one day doing that.
“I’ve still got a long way to go but getting the chance to go out and train every day at an AFL club is unbelievable. I’m still pinching myself.”
While Bourke is enjoying the spotlight of AFL football, yesterday he was back at grassroots level as part of the Geelong Community Camp.
The Cats have set up camp in Colac and last night Bourke and teammates Mitch Brown and Jared Rivers took training at Colac and District League club Simpson.
Bourke is making some impressive early progress with the Cats, with reports filtering out that the club is very happy with what he has produced on the track.
Bourke has had some impressive role models in the early days of his AFL journey.
“I have been learning how to play off half-back which is somewhere I haven’t really played before,” he said.
“Billie Smedts has been doing it as well and we have been learning off Corey Enright and Andrew Mackie so that has been incredible.
“Those two are the best around in that role and they just have so much knowledge and I’ve already learnt so much off them.”
On Wednesday night Geelong defeated Collingwood in the first of the NAB challenge series at Kardinia Park.
Bourke watched the game with the other Geelong players who missed out on selection. He said it was an exciting experience to get such a close-up look at an AFL game.
“We sat together in a box upstairs and got to go down into the rooms at half-time so it was a real eye-opener.
“It sunk in a bit that I am now part of the club when you see the guys playing who you train with all the time.”
The Cats’ next NAB challenge game is on February 28 against Melbourne and Bourke said he would continue to train hard and hope his name might come up for selection.
It is expected Bourke will spend the early part of the season playing in the Geelong VFL team, a side that includes former Hampden League players Dominic Gleeson from Koroit and Matthew Sully from South Warrnambool.
The brief return to grassroots footy yesterday for the community camp is one Bourke is happy to make, since country football has played a big role in his journey to the top level, having played his junior football at Kolora Noorat.
He displayed his prodigious talents when as a 16-year-old he played in Kolora-Noorat’s 2011 premiership side, playing a key role and being named best-on-ground in the grand final victory over Old Collegians.
“The community camps are a great thing for the club to do and its really good to be able to give something back to country football.
“I owe a lot to country footy and to Kolora-Noorat for giving me the chance to get a good start to my football career.”