Select grade below

Another reigning fairest and best winner joins Swan Districts

Thursday, October 19, 2023 - 3:14 PM

Despite never having even been to Perth, back-to-back Geelong Cats VFL fairest and best winner Jye Chalcraft feels playing in the WAFL can help take his football to another level and he is excited to do it at Swan Districts.

Chalcraft is the latest signing for Swan Districts ahead of the 2024 season with the prolific on-baller who has turned himself into a handy small forward as well joining the black-and-whites for at least the next two years.

After growing up in Shepparton, Chalcraft has spent the past three seasons playing for Geelong's VFL team. That has seen him win the last two fairest and best awards largely as a prolific ball winning inside midfielder, but also developing into a goalkicker as well in 2023.

His 2023 season was superb for the Cats averaging 22 possessions a game while also kicking 16 goals. While he's currently enjoying a stint playing in the Northern Territory for the first time, his focus will now be on being the latest Victorian recruit to thrive with Swan Districts.

The 22-year-old is another former teammate of ex-Geelong VFL captain Jackson McLachlan just as fellow new recruit Nik Rokahr is and he can't wait to move to Perth and get started in preparation for his first WAFL season in 2023.

Coming to Perth for the first time

It's a remarkable thing that Chalcraft is about to come live in a state he's never been to before, but everything he's heard about Swan Districts, the WAFL and the lifestyle in WA meant it was too good a chance to turn down.

"It's pretty crazy when you think about it that I'm moving to a place I've never been before, but I'm very excited and am just keen to get stuck into it," Chalcraft said.

"I haven’t stopped working since our last game either and have been doing lots of running and gym work still just to get myself ahead for when pre-season starts. I'm looking forward to it."

Having a familiar face at Swans

Given Chalcraft has never been to WA before, it's no surprise that he doesn’t know too many people in the state, but having a familiar teammate in his former Geelong captain McLachlan helps.

Then knowing what a standout 2023 season he had to finish runner-up in Swan Medal voting gives Chalcraft confidence it will be a good move for him, but coming across Nullarbor with two old mates from Shepparton will help him settle too.

"I spoke to Jacko during the year and he spoke highly of Swan Districts and he did sort of suggested I should make the move because of how much he's loved it. That played a big part in me making my decision too," he said.

"I'm also moving over with two other mates from the Shepparton area from where I come from originally so I'll be living with them which is nice because I don't know anyone else over there. Coming with them will definitely help.

"When I moved to Geelong, I didn’t know anyone and that first year by myself was a bit daunting not knowing anyone so the fact the three of us can move over together should make it easier and help us all settle in a bit quicker."

How did you come to sign with Swans

As a 22-year-old coming towards the end of a three-year stint in the VFL at Geelong and about to win a second straight fairest and best award, Chalcraft felt it was now or never to make that interstate move with his football while still young.

He wasn’t sure exactly where that would mean he ended up, but once he took the call from Swan Districts football manager Phil Smart, spoke to coach Andrew Pruyn and checked in with McLachlan, it quickly became obvious the WAFL might very well provide a chance for him to fully thrive.

"I got a call from Phil to start with and it was just about if I would be interested in coming over to WA during the year," Chalcraft said.

"I sort of brushed it aside for the time being to just focus on my footy in Geelong and then after our last game, I sat down and spoke to some people and tried to look into the future and what the best choice would be for me with my football.

"Me and my family, we all thought going to WA was the best option to see how it goes playing in the WAFL because I've been in the VFL program for three years now.

"I've tried my best in the VFL and just feel like I need a bit of a change of scenery and game style with WAFL being a bit different. I'm looking forward to a new challenge now."

Differences from VFL to WAFL

Before making the decision to come and play in the WAFL, Chalcraft did his homework and the bigger grounds in WA and the chance to get out and run more is something that instantly took his fancy.

While he has thrived in the small confines of VFL grounds as a terrific inside midfielder and contested ball winner, he now is excited to have the chance to get out and run and fully show how damaging he can be.

"I have watched some WAFL games to try and get a grasp of it, but I do feel like WAFL and VFL are a similar standard with the state league brand of footy, but it's probably just the size of the grounds that will be different," he said.

"The VFL is more contested and stoppage based whereas it looks like the WAFL grounds are pretty big and the games are a bit more open so you can exploit your running ability and skills a bit more.

"You can't really run and take a bounce much in the VFL so it will be a bit more open in the WAFL and I'm looking forward to having that bit more room to move in and I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do, and how I can take my footy to the next level."

Describing yourself as a player

Given he is still only 22 years of age, Chalcraft is far from the finished product as a footballer as he joins Swan Districts either.

He showed his ability to continue to develop and add strings to his bow by turning himself from a permanent inside midfielder to someone who could be a more than handy small forward in 2023 too.

"Two years ago I was just a 100 per cent on-baller whereas this year I was probably more 70-30 where I played more as a forward," Chalcraft said.

"So for the whole year basically I spent a lot of time with the forward coaches to try and work on my forward craft, and I feel like I've adapted well to a new position.

"I'd still like to say I'm an on-baller by nature and I like the contest and trying to break out of stoppages to use my skills, but now if the team needs me to go forward, I can be a sneaky small forward too.

"I love playing both positions, but I am more of a midfielder by nature and that's what I grew up playing."

Midfield you will be part of

While Chalcraft was attracted to the chance of playing in a midfield alongside McLachlan again in 2024 and beyond, having a look through the Swans team and on-ball group, he knew he wanted to be part of it.

With two-time Swan Medallist Jesse Turner, Sandover Medallist Sam Fisher, emerging star Aidan Clarke, consistent ball winner Josh Cipro, fellow recruit Rokahr and good young talent, it's a midfield unit potentially unlike any he's ever played with.

"I'm very excited and I reckon this could be the best midfield group that I've played with just looking at the names and what I've learned about them," Chalcraft said.

"That did definitely play a big part in me signing seeing the calibre of players that the Swannies have and I feel like we can all come as one and try to win a flag.

"That's the ultimate goal and having a good midfield core is always a good place to start because you can usually go pretty far in finals if you do have that good midfield."