AFL National Draft hope for Pioneers

Bendigo teenager to play for Geelong in VFL

Pioneers duo earn selection in AFL Academy squad

Cole earns Country call-up

Bendigo Pioneers in action at AFL grand final

Academy youngsters put to the test

Cole shines at combine

Tom Cole is hoping to hear his name being called out on AFL National Draft night. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

Tom Cole is hoping to hear his name being called out on AFL National Draft night. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

BENDIGO Pioneers coach Brett Henderson says he is confident two or more of his former charges could be playing AFL next season.

It is expected skilful defender Tom Cole and slick midfielder Aidyn Johnson will be among the names called out at Tuesday night's AFL National Draft in Adelaide.

Media reports have linked Cole with several clubs, including Carlton, Fremantle, Hawthorn and Geelong, where he has played three games with the Cats' VFL team.

Henderson said the club was hopeful of getting at least two players drafted.

"If we can get a third that's a real bonus," he said.

"We think both Tom Cole and Aidyn Johnson will both get picked up, I think somewhere in the range of between picks 20 and 40.

"Then we're hopeful we get a smokey called out (Tuesday) night as well."

The coach nominated 2015 Neville Strauch Memorial club champion award winner Lachie Tradrew, key position player Jayden Burke and defender Marty Hore as Pioneers who had elicited interest from AFL clubs.

All three were given the chance to impress recruiters at the AFL’s Victoria State Draft Combine.

Cole averaged 17 disposals at an excellent disposal efficiency rate of 83 per cent in his three outings for Geelong.

The classy left-footer offers potential suitors plenty of versatility, having been used in a range of different roles with the Pioneers, including across half back, midfield and even around goals.

Johnson represents a bit of a unknown quantity going into the draft.

The speedster from Echuca has obvious talent, but missed most of this season with the Pioneers with a niggling quad injury.

SEN draft expert Brett Anderson has Cole at pick 24 in his mock draft and Johnson at pick 28.

Henderson described the batch of Pioneers hopefuls as "well grounded, great kids".

"They've got to this point through hard work and provided this opportunity for themselves," he said.

“If it comes off, it comes off, if it doesn't there's still pathways into the AFL.

"It might be through the VFL, or whatever, but there's still that opportunity."

Tom Cole in full flight for the Bendigo Pioneers.

Tom Cole in full flight for the Bendigo Pioneers.

Henderson said 2015 had very much been a development year for the Pioneers, with the club choosing to debut nearly a dozen 16 year-olds.

Cole, who joined the Pioneers from Bendigo Football Netball League club Sandhurst, said he was pretty nervous ahead of the draft.

"It's a bit of a waiting game -  I am just trying to keep myself busy," he said.

"I'm heading to Melbourne today (Monday) to try and keep it off my mind."

Cole, who finished inside the top 10 in the shuttle run beep test at the AFL Draft Combine, described his 2015 season with the Pioneers as pretty consistent.

If it comes off, it comes off, if it doesn't there's still pathways into the AFL. - Bendigo Pioneers coach Brett Henderson

"I was a bit of a leader at the club and had to step up a bit, which I was happy to do," he said.

If successful, Cole would join a list of former Sandhurst AFL draftees that includes a trio of Selwood bothers - Joel, Scott and Adam – North Melbourne and former St Kilda star Nick Dal Santo, 2014-15 Bridgewater premiership coach Andrew Collins and Billy Evans, who was selected by Brisbane at pick four in last year's rookie draft.

He rated Johnson and his Pioneers and Sandhurst teammate Tardrew as strong chances of being drafted.

“Lachie had a pretty good year and has a couple of clubs watching him,” he said.

“If he doesn’t go Tuesday, he should go in the rookie draft.”

The draft will be televised live on Fox Footy from 6.30pm Tuesday.

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