The Brayshaw family has a Christmas tradition. This one has nothing to do with ham, carols or anything particularly festive.
No, the way Andy Brayshaw and older brothers Angus and Hamish spend Christmas Day is by going down to their local park in Sandringham, marking out 100 metres, and running the distance 100 times. They have 30 seconds to run each 100, with 30 seconds rest in between each run.
The tradition started five years ago with Angus and Hamish. Andy has done it three times.
“The idea behind it is on Christmas Day, your opponents aren’t doing anything and so you’re getting a step above them,” explains Andy, a well-rounded midfielder with an outstanding workrate, expected to be taken early in the draft later this month.
Of course being a Brayshaw family event, it should come as no surprise that when the brothers go for it again this Christmas, Charlie Constable will be there.
Constable is also set to be drafted, and to put it mildly, he and Andy have a bromance going on. In Charlie’s words, the pair “do everything together”. And that’s not just in a football sense, although the pair have played together at Haileybury College, Sandringham Dragons and Vic Metro.
It started in year 7. “I didn’t actually know him for probably the first term,” Charlie says.
The turning point was a school footy warm-up. “The coach said ‘pick someone you don’t know to warm up together,'” recalls Charlie.
“Probably from that day we just clicked. We like the same things, got along really and obviously became best mates.”
They play golf together (Charlie is better, playing off a handicap of 14 compared to Andy’s 22), and talk to each other every day. Charlie – six months older than Andy – got his P-plates earlier in the year, so has acted as Andy’s chauffeur too. “I’m over [at his house] a fair bit. We have a really close relationship, and I’m really close with his brothers, too,” Charlie says.
The Brayshaw family has impacted Charlie’s life to the point that his nickname, “Chook”, is an Angus Brayshaw creation. “I’m not too sure why. I think it might be because I really like chicken.
“That’s stuck everywhere I go now. That’s all I’m really known as.”
Of course Melbourne midfielder Angus has had a fair impact on Andy too. It’s only three years ago that Angus was drafted by the Demons with the third pick. He had an impressive first season in the AFL too, finishing fifth in the Rising Star award.
But things didn’t go as planned from there, with a series of head knocks and poor form proving a challenge for Angus, and changing Andy’s views about football.
“His first year … he had such great success. That’s when I thought it was going to be easy,” Andy says.
“But then he’s gone through head knocks, struggling to get a game. Watching how he’s had to adapt.”
Angus’ hardship came once he’d entered the AFL system. For Hamish, the big setback came earlier after he was overlooked at last year’s draft, leading him to return to the Dragons as an over-age player. Brothers Hamish and Andy played together this year as Sandringham made it to the grand final, only to lose a heart-stopper against Geelong.
Andy was on his way to a Dragons pre-season session during last year’s rookie draft, following the picks on his phone. He called Hamish after the draft. “He was pretty flat,” Andy says.
“Angus going at pick three, I thought it was all going to happen, just off talent, but then watching Hamish miss out, how he’s responded to that, it was a bit of a wake-up call in the sense that it doesn’t happen for everyone,” Andy says.
“I feel like having Hamish suffer from that really helped me pick up the slack and work really hard. But also to see him, his resilience that he’s shown over this year … I’m really proud of the way he’s gone about it.
“After a week or two he was back on the horse.”
Andy has loved playing with Hamish too, suggesting that it is comforting having someone so close to him as a teammate.
Hamish’s attitude – one which has helped him into contention to be drafted this year – should be no surprise if you listen to Andy talk about his family’s values. Parents Debra and Mark – chief executive of the AFL Coaches Association – offered each of their sons $1000 if they abstained from drinking or smoking before their 18th birthdays. Andy turned 18 on Wednesday, and Mark confirmed that the money had been paid.
“With footy it’s showing a bit of professionalism as well, the clubs really like it,” Andy says.
“Not putting on weight by drinking beers.”
Mark doesn’t just stand for abstinence though. Andy has high praise for his old man. “I feel like the values Dad holds is what’s keeping me in good stead. Keeping both feet on the ground, being polite.”
Mark – who also played 32 games for North Melbourne in the early 1990s – and Angus both go through game footage with Andy.
Andy is proud too of oldest brother Will, a member of the n army set to be deployed to Afghanistan next year. “He loves what he does, and the whole family’s so proud of him. I just think ‘good on him, he’s loving what he’s doing.”
Like Charlie, Andy’s nickname “Snea” is also the making of the Brayshaw family. “Basically when I was a kid according to my parents I used to sneak around a bit, and so ‘Sneaker’ got shortened to ‘Snea’ and now there’s heaps of variations like ‘Shnea’ and ‘Shneazer.'”
Indeed, when he was very young Andy snuck around that much that when playing hide and seek he’d hide in the toilet. Yes, the actual bowl.
“Get in there, have my feet in the water. It’s disgusting!”
It’s not all about the Brayshaws though for Charlie. His own family has made a difference too, from older brother Joel, mum Nicki, and dad Michael, who Charlie says was a huge influence on his football as a junior coach at East Sandringham – the club probably best known for producing Chris Judd and Jobe Watson. Those two, of course, are midfielders, and Charlie – listed at 191 centimetres – is getting there too, and could be the prototypical big, modern midfielder. He has gained a reputation for his clean hands around stoppages.
“Last year I was only a backline player, and this is my first year since probably under-12s that I’ve played in the midfield,” Charlie says.
“The more games I played, the more I developed my craft.”
And he had plenty of games – 35 or so including practice matches.
The big challenge for Charlie to make it as an AFL midfielder will be do to improve his tank. He still doesn’t consider himself a “great runner”.
Maybe a few more 100x100s will do the trick.