Four Tassie boys off to the AFL after being snapped up in national draft
SIMEON THOMAS-WILSON Mercury
THE dreams of four young Tasmanians have come true after their names were called out by AFL clubs at the national draft in Adelaide.
Tigers ball magnet Kieran Lovell became the club’s first AFL draftee when reigning premier Hawthorn chose him with the 22nd pick.
The incredible perseverance of Clarence’s Mitchell Hibberd to come back from numerous injuries was rewarded when the team he supports, North Melbourne, called his name out with their 33rd pick.
Lovell’s Tigers teammate Mackenzie Willis became the first player drafted out of the TSL since Aaron Hall three years ago when he went as pick 52 to Gold Coast and Burnie’s Ryan Gardner was chosen with Geelong’s pick 59.
AFL Tasmania high performance manager Mathew Armstrong went into this year’s draft hoping for two or three Tasmanians to get their name called out, and said to get four was incredible
“I couldn’t be happier,” he said.
“Stoked for the four boys that were taken, disappointed for the boys that weren’t picked up but we have the rookie draft on Friday so hopefully a few more are taken there.”
While it didn’t reach the heights of 2013, when six Tasmanians had their names called, Armstrong said the show of strength by AFL-linked academies in NSW and Queensland meant this year’s haul was a good one for the state.
“Those academies, wow,” Armstrong said.
“We’ve got to find a way to get something similar to what they have over there.
“That’s what makes it so damn good that we got those players drafted.”
The four players that GWS drafted last night were all from its academy, while Brisbane drafted two players from its academy and Sydney chose academy product Callum Mills with the third pick.
North Melbourne also drafted a Brisbane academy player after the Lions chose not to match the Kangaroos’ offer.
While Lovell, Hibberd and Gardner’s involvement with the Mariners in 2015 helped them in their quests to get drafted this season, Willis – who was in the program as recently as 2013 – had to rely on impressing in the TSL to earn his way into the AFL.
Armstrong said Willis showed that players didn’t have to leave Tasmania to get into the big time.
“It speaks volumes for the TSL that if players don’t make it in the Mariners program they can come into the state league and play their best footy and get drafted,” he said