The sight of Sam Draper wreaking havoc at stoppages will rank highly on Bomber fans’ 2024 wish lists.

Draper has endured a lengthy and challenging process to integrate back into the main pre-season group since his groin surgery last September, but the ruck’s diligence now has him ready to train fully.

Although the 25-year-old is always keen to play at his first opportunity, a cautious approach alongside the club’s coaches and fitness staff will ensure the first Draper 2024 on-field sighting will be at 100 percent.

Speaking at Tradie’s Content Day earlier this week, Draper told the media that the learnings from his injury challenges over the past year have held him in good stead as a player and person.


“This injury’s had a lot of grey area which has been hard at times to work through, but it’s taught me a lot and I feel like I’m going to be better off after it,” Draper said.

“The discipline and dealing with the frustration has really been helpful for me in learning how to put a positive spin on things and it’ll hold me in good stead for the future.

“The last couple of weeks have been great for me, running around pain-free and slowly getting into drills with the boys. I’ve been trying not to think too far ahead with this injury, just taking the cliché of one week at a time.”

Draper has ticked off major milestones in his recovery over the past month, gradually becoming pain-free and reintegrating back into drills from main training sessions.

The 205cm ruck is happy to keep focusing on the small steps as he builds to an unrestricted run, citing the reassurance of Senior Coach Brad Scott as a key factor in helping his mentality throughout the post-surgery period.

“(It’s) definitely a more cautious approach coming out of this rehab, I had surgery at the end of September and I’m still not back yet, so the club’s been really good at not rushing me,” Draper said.

“I’ve been on this long process and they’ve been really diligent with that. I’ve put in a lot of work and I’m feeling really confident now.

“Hitting speed is no issue, it’s more the short-and-sharp stuff at the moment. The next step is that genuine training and contact.

“’Scotty’ (Brad Scott) has been awesome at just saying there’s no pressure on when I come back and whenever I’m 100 percent and good, that’s when I’ll play. I’m aiming (for round one) still, but we’ll see how we go.”

A Draper return restores a focal element of the Dons’ ruck balance in 2024, as developing big man Nick Bryan is joined by rookie Vigo Visentini, as well as experienced recruit Todd Goldstein.

Having established a strong rapport with retired ruck Andrew Phillips over his final two seasons, Draper is confident the transition in partnerships from ‘Drillips’ to ‘Drapestein’ can be equally as effective.

With Draper honing in on his forward craft, his ability to impact away from the centre bounce could improve once again in 2024.


“(Todd’s) a great bloke, people will be wanting to know if we’ll be playing together and I think we can be a good partnership together. I’m open to whatever ‘Scotty’ wants to do and whatever it looks like,” Draper said.

“(Nick Bryan’s) been training really well, even young Vigo has been really impressive, it’s great that all the boys are out there at the moment. I need to get out there and put my name forward.

“The whole group has (taken learnings from Goldstein’s experience) as well, not just the rucks. He’s played over 300 games and is the all-time hitout record holder, so I think the more I get out on the track, I’ll be able to learn even more from him.

“I’ve worked hard on my forward craft and I feel like I’m a bit different to some other rucks, I can play forward and feel comfortable there. Get my goalkicking right and I feel like we’ll be pretty dangerous.

“Watch that space, I reckon.”