Sam Flanders on playing for the AFL

Boonwurrung Land (Sam Flanders)
Fish Creek, Victoria
Gold Coast Suns, AFL Club
AFL, Basketball, Professional Athlete

Professional Athlete

The Gold Coast Suns traded up the order to draft Sam Flanders with pick 11 in the 2019 NAB AFL Draft. He won 2019 NAB AFL Under-18 All-Australian honours after he averaged 22.5 disposals, 4.5 marks, 4.5 clearances and six tackles across the 2019 NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.

Growing Up Rural

I grew up in a small town called Fish Creek. I was there for all my childhood to about year 9. I went to primary school in Fish Creek and then I went to high school in Foster. In year 9 I moved over to Lowanna College in Newborough for more basketball opportunities. I boarded in warragul with family friends for a year and a half.

I always wanted to go down the professional athlete path. I grew up on a farm so when I was really young I thought that’s what I wanted to do. But once I started working things out for myself I realised I wanted to do professional sport.

I really like the community aspect of country footy. I did it with my mates, and Fish Creek is pretty small, so it was like the entire town was there on a Saturday.

High School

Half way through year 12 I almost made the move to do the year ungraded because I knew I had the draft coming up and that I wouldn’t have a lot of time. But I realised it would only be an extra 2 weeks of schooling and would mean I got a mark. So I ended up doing it all. It was good to do exams because now if I want to get into anything outside of footy, it’s a lot easier.

People always so you know… ‘these are going to be the best years of your life’, and I used to say nah, there’s no way. But it’s true.. you get to see your mates every day, you’ve got the hours between 9-3 everyday to do whatever you want.

Choosing Footy

I grew up in a small town, played footy and basketball, although it was mainly basketball. The first state sport I did was the Country Victoria Basketball Championships, from that I made the under 16s state team. The year after I made bottom age 18s. The end of under 18s season for basketball was actually when I had a try out for Victoria Country under 18s football team.

It wasn’t until about year 12 that I switched back to over to footy from basketball. My opportunities for basketball were pretty limited so I made a choice to go try out for the under 16s team for Victoria Country football.

I was fortunate enough to make that, so we played in one game in Richmond and then we played the rest in the Gold Coast. That was my first taste of footy at a higher level than just local footy. I played about 4 games for Gippsland Power playing bottom, bottom-age. From there I played bottom-age 18s and then top-age 18s for Vic Country.

There was more opportunity in footy, it was more realistic that’s why I changed over.

Moving the Gold Coast

The move was hard. At first it felt like a holiday because everything was brand new and I was finding my way. But once that wore off I started to realise that I do miss home.

I was really lucky that my roommate up on the Gold Coast was from Morwell in the Latrobe Valley. His partner is from Warragul. It meant that when I said things at the dinner table they actually knew what I was talking about – we grew up in similar areas. The move would have been really hard if it wasn’t for them.

Playing AFL

The hardest part is the fitness levels. Coming from basketball which is a stop-start, explosive style of play – you get a bit of a rest. Footy is just so consistent. I still haven’t adapted – I’m a terrible runner. The demands for it are incredible – you have to be fit, and strong, agile. It’s really hard to get a good balance.

At the moment we’re pre pre session. We do four week blocks. We finished out first block up in Queensland. In a normal week it’s 3 runs, 3 gyms and a bike session or something similar. It’s a pretty heavy week. Preseason is the hardest part of the year. We have 3 runs and 3 gym sessions a week.

During the season the training load is much lighter. Monday is called get moving – it’s a really light session where you just do what you feel you need to. We have T1 later in the week. Our T2 training is harder. Then there are off leg sessions, like getting on a bike or going for a swim.


What worked really well for me was keeping up with both Basketball and Footy. Keeping them both going as long as possible kept my options open. That’s my advice – don’t narrow it down too early.


I hope to be playing footy for 10-15 Years. Everyone’s different and some people are really lucky, but I want to do this for as long as I can.


Alex Sexton and Sam Flanders celebrating during a match in the 2020 season.

Image: Gold Coast Suns

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