Josh Wagner recovers from ‘Booming’ initiation

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 30: Josh Wagner of the Demons runs with the ball during the round six AFL match between the Melbourne Demons and the St Kilda Saints at Etihad Stadium on April 30, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Josh Wagner runs with the ball at Etihad Stadium. Photo: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images Robert Cianflone


Josh Wagner didn't enjoy the best start to his AFL career.

The Melbourne debutant was, after all, matched up on a player 16 years his senior and with 411 more games of experience.

It was round three in Hobart, and the young defender who had been plucked from the Aspley Hornets in the NEAFL was given the task of manning North Melbourne veteran Brent Harvey.

'Boomer' went on to gather 22 disposals and kick a career-high six goals.

"He's got a few tricks up his sleeve that us young fellas don't know yet," the 21-year-old recalled to ARM.

"He was pretty tough."

But, given another chance by coach Paul Roos, Wagner made amends the following week against Collingwood, collecting 24 touches of his own, before grabbing a career-high 25 in the big win against Gold Coast last week.

Wagner had been taken with pick six in last year's rookie draft, and wasn't anticipating playing senior footy so soon.

"I didn't really expect it when Roosy called me into his office," he said. "It was out of the blue really ... I thought anyway.

"It's a big step up from NEAFL to VFL - I just thought I'd be there and adjust to that and hopefully by the end of the year I'd get a crack (at the seniors)."

But, Wagner is enjoying being a part of a Demons side finally on the rise, sitting ninth with a 4-3 win-loss record and confident of upsetting the fourth- placed Bulldogs tomorrow at the MCG.

"As soon as I arrived all the older boys let me know that it's a good club to be at this time," he said.

"There's a good vibe and a good culture around the place. Everyone's enjoying each other's company."

Wagner was "brought up" with Aussie rules in Brisbane - "dad, and mum's dad and dad's dad, cousins ... everybody played the sport," he said.

His father, Scott Wagner, and both grandfathers, Gary Wagner and Col Robinson, all played during different eras for Sandgate, with Scott a one-time Brisbane Bears development player and Gary an AFL Queensland Hall of Famer.

His younger brother Corey, 18, meanwhile, is now a teammate of Harvey's at the Roos, having been picked in last year's national draft.

"He's got to beat a few players to get in. He'll get his shot soon I think."

Maybe when Harvey retires - if that ever happens.