Blake Drury will become North Melbourne’s 1052nd AFL debutant against St Kilda on Sunday – but it won’t be his first time on a major sporting stage.
The 19-year-old was the Australian Open’s top ballboy in 2019, and was on court in that role for Novak Djokovic’s Melbourne Park title wins that year and in 2020.
Drury, whose achievement scored him a gig at the French Open as well, shared a high-five with the now 10-time Australian Open champion after his five-set comeback win over Austria’s Dominic Thiem in the final three years ago.
Saint Jack Billings and Carlton’s Darcy Vescio are among the AFL and AFLW footballers to serve as a ball kid at the Melbourne grand slam.
Ball kids are rated on various criteria, from performance to behaviour, ethics and supporting their peers, and given an aggregate rating at the end of the tournament.
“It’s pretty exciting [to be named the top ballboy] – I didn’t really expect it, it feels very surreal,” Drury said in 2019 when he was proclaimed the tournament’s best.
“Getting to [be a] ballkid on Rod Laver Arena on night one for Roger Federer and Caroline Wozniacki was pretty amazing and definitely a highlight.”
Drury, who has played up forward and as a defender, has forced his way into Alastair Clarkson’s senior side with a strong start to the VFL season, averaging 19 disposals, four marks and four score involvements.