Career : 2013 - 2018
Debut : Round 21, 2013 vs Richmond, aged 19 years, 66 days
Player No. 1148
Games : 48
Goals : 11
Last game: Round 21, 2018 vs Fremantle Dockers, aged 24 years, 61 days
Guernsey No. 32
Height : 182 cm (5 ft. 11 in.)
Weight : 76 kg (12 stone, 0 lbs.)
DOB : 12th June, 1994.
In September 2012, Nick Graham won the Morrish Medal as the Best and Fairest player in the Under-18 TAC Cup competition. A few weeks later, he joined Carlton as the Blues’ third choice (No.54) in the AFL Draft. A hard-running midfielder who had started out at Traralgon-Tyers United before joining the Gippsland Power, he suffered a knee injury before the TAC Cup Grand Final, but pushed through the pain barrier to be rated his side's best player in a thrilling over-time loss to the Oakleigh Chargers at Docklands Stadium.
A pre-draft profile described Graham as a medium midfielder and a terrific competitor, with excellent evasive ability. Strong overhead and very good by foot, he had been a prolific ball-winner throughout 2012, averaging 25 disposals per game. He had also shown up as a capable forward, presenting as a marking target and applying good defensive pressure.
Power Regional Manager Peter Francis (himself a former Carlton Premiership player) had this to say about Nick; "We always really highly rated him here - we knew that he had an enormous amount of talent. He was probably more of an outside mid when he was younger, but Nick Stevens has had a huge impact on him, and he's really built his game around defensive pursuits. He realised that if he wanted to be a good player he had to be more inside and make sure that he chased, tackled, smothered and harassed and did all those things that really good players do. He's gone out and done a lot of that himself, which is testament to how badly he wants to play AFL footy."
Unfortunately for the youngster, his aspirations suffered an early setback when he injured a knee again during pre-season training. Another trip to hospital for exploratory surgery in March, 2013 was followed by an announcement from the club that he had been placed on the long-term injury list, and was not expected to resume full training for 8 to 10 weeks.
In fact, it was a full three months before Nick was able to resume with the Northern Blues. When he did however, he struck form quickly and by July was averaging 27 possessions per game. His reward was to be selected as Carlton’s substitute for his senior debut against Richmond on a Saturday night at the MCG in round 21. Late in the third quarter of that intense contest, the youngster in guernsey number 32 ran out on to the field to replace Josh Bootsma, and was soon in the thick of the action as Carlton vanquished the Tigers by 10 points. Graham gathered 9 possessions, 2 marks and 2 tackles in just over 30 minutes of football, and could scarcely have done more.
Retained as Carlton’s substitute for the following Saturday night’s headline clash against Essendon (again at the MCG), Nick was injected into the game much earlier than expected when Brock McLean tore a thigh muscle and hobbled off the ground before quarter-time. The Blues controlled proceedings for most of the match, and had a whopping nine more scoring shots – yet somehow managed to lose when the dogged Bombers goaled with only seconds left on the clock.
Those two forays into elite level football provided Graham with plenty of incentive during Carlton’s 2014 pre-season preparation. Although he wasn’t selected at senior level again until the Blues’ round 4 match against Melbourne, Nick was a regular senior player by season’s end. He kicked his first career goal in quite spectacular fashion during the second quarter of an upset win over North Melbourne in round 18, and was a solid contributor in each of his team's last five matches of the year.
In 2015 Carlton endured an horrific season that began with the departure of a number of established players, reached crisis point when coach Mick Malthouse was sacked, and culminated in another wooden spoon. Graham wasn’t called into the senior team until round 6, then played five more matches before round 14, when he suffered a serious foot injury that ended his season early.
After a well-publicised off-season that brought Brendon Bolton to Carlton as the Blues’ new senior coach, Graham was ready and waiting when Carlton met Richmond at the MCG in round 1, 2016. Although the Blues were beaten, Nick’s 23 disposals, 7 marks and 4 inside-50 entries was a good effort, and that form continued through another 11 games in Graham’s most productive season. Two further seasons of 10 games a piece saw Graham get close to the magical 50 game mark, before Carlton pulled the pin and did not offer a contract for Graham in 2019.
Nick tweeted that he was the most dropped player in history. It may take us a while to prove that, but it does reflect the nature of his games at the Blues. Picked for 1 or 2; dropped to the Bullants. Play HF for Carlton; play centre for the Bullants and dominate. A tireless worker, Graham could not secure that spot in the firsts permanently and ended with 48 games in Navy Blue.
Career Highlights2015 - 2nd Northern Blues Best and Fairest
LinksArticles: Draft Article - Carltonfc.com.au | Draft Article - sportingpulse
Blueseum: A summary of Graham's playing career | Graham's Blueseum Image Gallery