FOOTBALL provides Brayden Draffin with a social outlet after long hours on the farm.
He decided to join Camperdown - a club based 40 minutes from his Vite Vite North property - for the 2021 Hampden league season.
The sheep and cropping farmer, who has worked on the land for more than a decade, loves the Magpies so much that he will play for a third consecutive season despite recently moving to a property at Buangor, meaning a 1.5-hour drive to training at times.
"The reason I went down to Camperdown to play was to get out of the bubble and branch out and meet new people," he told The Standard.
"I've probably met some of my best mates there in the last two years, the club has been great and understanding when I can't train because of work and travel.
"It is just a friendly place. There's a lot of farmers within the club and it has a good country feel to it."
Draffin mostly runs the Vite Vite North property but will live at Buangor, which is closer to Ararat.
"It is a family-run business - my brother (Josh) is on one property, I am on another property and my parents (Andrew and Melinda) are on another property," he said.
"We run it as one. We have a few workers and I tend to work it in with footy training too."
Farming is a passion for Draffin - a former North Ballarat City and Skipton footballer - but it requires dedication, particularly during harvest which will kick-off in mid-December.
"I suppose it's in my blood - I enjoy everything about it. You're doing something different everyday and it's a lifestyle," he said.
"You live where you work and you look out the window everyday and you see what you've done so it's pretty rewarding."
Harvest is likely to run until the end of January.
But, after heavy rainfall in recent months, Draffin is aware it might not be the most prosperous summer.
"We've been ridiculously wet; we've had a lot of rain and the crops aren't looking too good this year and we've had a bit of flooding as well so it's made it pretty difficult," he said.
Hours will be long during harvest but he's used to it.
"Leading up to Christmas it's very full on. I am doing some massive hours, could work all day and all night to be honest," Draffin said.
"We could do 80-hour weeks. We don't really knock off, we work around the weather.
"Hours generally vary - we can do some really big days but then if it comes in wet we'll have a quiet day and try and do some sheep work."
Draffin plans to train once a week with Camperdown and once a week with Wimmera league club Ararat Rats in 2023 in a bid to ease his travel burden.
The Magpies have used him in the midfield and back line in his first two seasons at the club.
Both were shortened - the first due to coronavirus pandemic lockdowns and the second because of an ankle injury.
Draffin, who prides himself on providing "plenty of voice and a bit of leadership", said his intercept marking was a strength in defence.
He said there was a positive vibe at Leura Oval pre-season training as the Magpies tried to improve on a challenging five-win, 13-loss 2022 season which saw them finish second-bottom on a 10-team ladder.
"I hope we can get back up there to where we were the previous year (in the finals hunt) but it was a tough year this year with numbers," Draffin said.
"There's definitely some young, fit blokes coming through who are really exciting. We have a few new coaches onboard too so that's definitely going to help too."
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