On & Off the Pitch: Sam Draper

If you watch AFL you've probably seen a 205cm, untamed hair, live wire taking the centre bounces for the Essendon Football Club this year. If you haven't keep an eye out in 2021, the boy can play and oozes footy nostalgia! 

In 2020, Sam Draper made his highly anticipated debut for the Bombers, in what seemed like a long time coming thanks to some bad luck including an ACL injury and time to build experience. Sam got his chance during season 2020 to don the Red & Black against the Brisbane Lions and continued to do so against game's very best, and hasn't put a foot wrong!  

We have been lucky enough to ask Sam a few fun questions about life on & off the pitch! 


When you’re not playing in the ruck for the Essendon Bombers, what're you most likely doing?

Not a whole lot to be honest, you'll find me either sitting at cafe, going for a stroll at the beach, hanging with my girlfriend or cooking and eating.

Which 3 music artists are most likely to be on your game day playlist?
  • Travis Scott 
  • Aitch
  • Gunna

I take great pride in being responsible for the pre-game tunes. It'll either be a rap playlist or heavy techno.

You grew up playing football (soccer). What position did you play?

I started as a goalkeeper back in under 5’s and would usually come on and play up front and score a hat-trick in the second half ha ha... but from the age of about 13 I moved to CB (Centre Back) and continued to play there until I finished soccer. I saw myself as a Nemanja Vidic type...

Most difficult aspect of transitioning from football (soccer) to Aussie Rules?

I had to put on some KG’s! I was lean, around 85KG when I finished soccer and 105KG by the end of my first AFL season! Also getting the hang of the basic skills and being able to read the play. The first half of my first year playing was the hardest but I started to find my feet more and more after each game. 

Also how sore I would be after games was probably one of the major differences!

Your sports idol growing up and why?

Cristiano Ronaldo and Rooney, all day!


What is your most forgettable sporting moment?

Pretty funny, but in my second VFL game I got punched in the face and then only got 1 touch for the day. Not one of my best efforts.

What is your most memorable sporting moment?

Making my debut!

How have you found living in Melbourne in comparison to Adelaide?

Absolutely love it in Melbourne, and love being able to come home to Adelaide in the off season - so I get the best of both worlds. But the amazing restaurants/bars that I’ve fallen in love with are what makes Melbourne stand out for me. Although, I’m not a fan of how Victorians say Parma instead of Parmi!

Describe an AFL preseason in 3 words:
  • Long
  • Rewarding 
  • Exhausting 
How was your sleep the night before debuting for the Bombers?

Not too bad! The only time I got a little nervous was walking to the first centre bounce and thinking “okay, so this is actually happening”!

Who has dished out the best on field banter so far? What did they say?

There’s been a few, but unfortunately I don’t think it’s appropriate to quote on here...

What is your go to pre-game dinner?

Crust pizza.


Are you superstitious? If so, what superstitions do you have?

No superstitions! However, I like to make sure I’m super organised and my day leading up to the game is well planned out.

If you weren’t playing AFL professionally, what would you most likely be doing?

Initially I applied to be a PE teacher before I got drafted and I did a semester of it last year, unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I’m thinking of getting into barbering or maybe starting a clothing label further down the line! Who knows?!

Is the hairstyle here to stay?

Big yes, as far as the length of the mullet gets to is undecided...

What was the main activity to pass time in the AFL hub/bubble in QLD?

Getting a bit of sun or playing a bit of Elvis pinball in the games room at the hotel. Also a few walks discovering different parts of the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.

What are you most looking forward to next season?

Getting my first win! Was unreal to play 8 games this year but still searching for that first W. My mates have started to call me Owen so pretty keen for that nickname to pass!

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