Denver Grainger-Barras – Ready to fly at the Hawks

Monday, December 14, 2020 - 9:23 AM by Matthew Ogg

Denver Grainger-Barras has become the highest Swan Districts player selected in the AFL National Draft since Stephen Coniglio went to the Giants in 2011 with pick two.

He was selected by Hawthorn with pick No.6, which was the club’s first top 10 draft pick in over a decade, and is ready to make an immediate impact at his new club.

Denver played all eight games in the seniors for Swan Districts in 2020 and solidified his standing as a top selection, both throughout the season and during the two WA state games.

Despite being the size of a key defender, Denver has the flexibility to play on tall or small forwards alike. He has quick closing speed, is a solid reader of the play and is an exceptional intercept marker.

We caught up with Denver to ask him about the what the last 48 hours have been like since he was drafted.


Has it sunk in yet?

Yes it seems quite real now. I’ve met up with a few of the boys already and had a face to face with Alastair Clarkson as well.


Who were you watching the draft with?

I was with my partner and her family, mum and dad and their partners and my brother and sister.


What was the feeling like for you when the draft started, and they began reading out players names?

It was long. It felt like I was sitting there for hours just waiting for my name to be called. I could tell I was nervous because people kept talking around me and I just wanted to focus on the draft on the tv. When my name was called out it was such a surreal feeling.


One of your best mates, Zane Trew, was also predicted to get picked up in the draft. What was it like for you to see his name not read out on the night?

I was so surprised and really gutted for him. I genuinely think that he is one of the best midfielders in this draft crop. For West Coast to get him in the Rookie Draft is an incredible steal and clubs will regret overlooking him.


You were predicted to be picked up early in the draft. Did you have any idea where you were going to go?

No I didn’t. I had spoken to Sydney quite a bit, and Gold Coast had said to me if I got to them they wouldn’t let me slide by. I was surprised initially when Hawthorn picked me up. I had spoken to them a couple of times but didn’t actually think they were all that interested in me.


What have your family and friends said about it?

It’s just been such excitement and joy. It’s amazing to think that I have brought them this happiness just by doing what I love.


You’ve been working for Bunnings up until the draft. Have you put in your resignation with them yet?

No I haven’t. I want to keep that door open as they have been such a great organisation to work for. It could be a business I look at learning in the future so I’ll be making sure I do the right thing by them too.


Who was the first player or coach to call you after you were drafted?

It was Jack Gunston who actually called me first. It was surreal to hear from him. Sam Mitchell also gave me a call and was giving me some advice, which was amazing. I would say almost every other player has at least sent me a text to welcome me to the club as well. Many of these guys wouldn’t know who I am or have ever seen me play, but they have been so welcoming.


Alistair Clarkson has already given you a nickname by the sounds of it?

Yeah (laughing). I spoke to him on a Zoom call a while ago and as soon as he saw me he told me I looked like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo. We had a joke about it when I met him face to face too. I actually hope it sticks as I’d rather have a nickname then just be called by my first name.


You’re already in Melbourne. What’s that been like?

I was on the 7am flight to Melbourne on Friday morning and arrived about 3pm. I really wanted to be drafted to a team in Melbourne and can’t believe I’m actually here.


What have you done at the club so far?

Nothing really so far. When I flew in I had to get a Covid test, but no one was open or available to do it. So before I can attend the club, I have to have the test. Monday will be my first time there and I’m sure the fact that I’ve been drafted to Hawthorn will sink in properly then.


Have you signed your contract yet?

Not yet. Hopefully Monday but I’m not really in any rush to do it.


Do you know when you officially start training with the club?

On Monday. It’ll be exciting to see what’s in store.  


Is there anyone in particular that you are most excited to share the field with from the Hawks?

I’d have to say James Sicily. I love his aggression and passion in the way he plays and can’t wait to meet him and pick his brains.


Do you know where you’ll be living yet?

I’m staying with Tim O’Brien for the week and a bit that I’m here, then will fly back to Perth for Christmas. I’ll be living with a host family when I fly back to Melbourne.


Have they given you a jersey number yet?

No, not yet.


Is there a number you’d like to wear?

I’d love to wear the number 12, in respect of James Frawley. He had an amazing career and was a great defender for the club, so I am hoping I’ll be able to wear his number.


Have you had that moment when you’ve seen someone wearing a Hawks jumper or other piece of merchandise and get that excited feeling that that is the club you now play for?

Today actually. I was walking with TO (Tim O’Brien) and we were out getting some lunch. I walked around a corner and saw this amazing piece of art on the wall in front of me. It was a huge hawk mural and I realised it was for Hawthorn. That’s the first time I saw something that I got excited and thought ‘that’s what I’m a part of now’.


You grew up following the Eagles. For a bit of fun, let’s say you are playing them in Round 1. Alastair Clarkson gives you the magnet with your name on it and tells you that you can place it on the board to line up against whoever you want to. Who do you choose to line up against and why? Who do you avoid putting your magnet next to?

I would be looking for the magnet that says (Zane) Trew on it. I would love to line up on him as we have been such good mates for a long time. I would love the chance to play on Josh Kennedy or Jack Darling but I think I would choose Oscar Allen. I think he is going to have a huge impact on the competition next season and I would love to take away his influence on the game. There isn’t anyone I wouldn’t choose to line up on. I believe in challenging yourself to be better, and to be the best you have to play on and learn from the best.