FOUR players selected made for a big AFL National Draft night for the Bendigo Pioneers on Friday.
In a fantastic result for the club, Joe Atley (Port Adelaide, pick 32), Kobe Mutch (Essendon, pick 42), Kayle Kirby (Collingwood, pick 50) and Fergus Greene (Western Bulldogs, pick 70) are all now on AFL lists.
With four players selected, it’s the most the Pioneers have had picked up at the National Draft since 2007 when Robbie Tarrant, Scott Selwood, Toby Thoolan and Eljay Connors all had their names read out.
Only the seven draftees in 1997 and five in the “super draft” of 2001 surpass this year’s tally of four in the Pioneers’ history.
With another four to add to the list, it now takes the total number of Bendigo Pioneer players drafted by AFL clubs to 62.
While Atley and Mutch were both widely touted to be drafted, and Kirby’s prospects had also been talked up, particularly after a pair of impressive performances late in the season for Richmond’s VFL team, Greene (pictured) was the old-fashioned smokey.
Greene’s selection by the reigning premiers is proof when it comes to recruiting you just never know who may be watching given he only played five games with the Bendigo Pioneers this year after coming onto the list mid-season and one in the VFL development league with Williamstown.
But coupled with strong performances for Catholic College Bendigo and Sandhurst (nine reserves, four senior games), plus an elite 15.6 beep test at the RookieMe Combine, Greene is now a Western Bulldog – along with Jake Stringer, Stuart Crameri, Jack Redpath, Tory Dickson, Shane Biggs and Tom Campbell, who all either played for the Pioneers or Bendigo Bombers.
And how strong must that Sandhurst senior team have been this year given Greene, who come up through the ranks of the BJFL, spent grand final day in the reserves.
Greene’s selection continues a rich Sandhurst VFL/AFL history, with 58 former Dragons all having played at the top level.
While it was a memorable Draft night for Atley, Mutch, Kirby and Greene, spare a thought for Brett Henderson, the ex-Pioneers’ coach not recontracted for next year.
What a thrill it would have been for Henderson to see four players he coached get drafted and deliver on the development and pathways mantra of the TAC Cup, but with it comes the bitter disappointment that he won’t be there next year to guide the next crop of AFL hopefuls from the region.
Luke West – sports reporter