It can come in Orange. It can come in Lemon-Lime. It can even come in Mountain Berry Blast. It’s an integral part of one of the sweetest moments of a young AFL career, and also one of the stickiest. It is, of course, the Powerade shower.
It took Jye Caldwell longer than expected to be drenched in sickly sweet fluids and electrolytes, as the No.11 selection in the 2018 AFL Draft spent much of his first season with the GIANTS sitting on the sidelines with injuries.
When Caldwell finally made his debut, in Round 21 last year, he played under falling snowflakes in Canberra as Hawthorn dumped the Giants by 56 points.
He played in the GIANTS' next game, against rivals Western Bulldogs, that ended in a 61-point loss, before dropping out of the team for the last home and away game and the 2019 finals series.
His first three games this season, all coming after the AFL returned from the COVID-19 shutdown, also finished with the GIANTS on the wrong side of the scoreline.
“The monkey was on my back for a while, and I sort of thought I was a curse,” the midfielder admitted to AFL.com.au.
But in his sixth AFL match – all for a team so used to winning that it made the Grand Final last season – Caldwell experienced his first victory with the GIANTS, as they beat reigning premiers Richmond by 12 points.
“It was great to finally get that win,” the emerging midfielder said with relief.
“And on a Friday night, against a good, quality side like the Tigers, to get it done was really good.
“I was getting a bit nervous, to be honest, busting a liver bag to try to do something and make an impact so we could get the four points. It was pretty nerve-racking, the last few minutes.”
In the ecstatic moments after the siren sounded, Caldwell thought he’d managed to avoid the now-customary way to celebrate a teammate’s first win for an AFL club.
“Not many of the team actually knew. They all thought I’d had a win before, because it had been that long,” he said.
“But I copped the Powerade shower. It was a good one, finally, but it was a bit cold afterwards.”
Caldwell showed himself to be a powerful, explosive midfielder when playing for Bendigo Pioneers, his school Geelong Grammar, and for Victoria Country at the 2018 NAB Under-18 National Championships. He was also known to be a talented junior basketballer, cricketer and boxer.
But making your way into the AFL as a tough, ball-winning midfielder can be like a new sport for many 19-year-olds, especially when facing the bigger, more mature bodies of opponents who have been in the system for several years.
“I just have to know what my strengths are and, whoever I’m playing against, what their strengths are,” Caldwell said.
“There’s no point locking arms with a Dusty Martin, who’s a lot stronger than me, so I have to know what I’ve got to do, and what I’ve got to do to beat my opponent.
“When I get in the middle, I try to do as much as I can, create a lot of pressure, tackle, and when I get the ball try to kick a few goals. I try to keep it down there as well.”
After serious hamstring injuries in his final year of U18s, and several different issues in his first year at the GIANTS, Caldwell is now feeling the fittest he has for years.
But the 183cm midfielder is conscious of looking after his body with the possibility of multiple games on the back of four- or five-day breaks in the coming weeks.
“This is the most games I’ve played in a row, I think eight games. I don’t think I’ve done that in eight years. Hopefully I can stay good for a lot longer,” he said.
“I’ll have to be careful, get in the ice baths, do whatever I can to play week after week. I’ll just do what I have to do.”
Caldwell will be hoping for a second career victory – this time without the need for a Powerade shower – when the GIANTS play Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium on Sunday.