Growing up, Flynn Perez had two football passions - Richmond and Liverpool.
Now the former soccer star can swap Richmond for North Melbourne after the Roos selected him with pick 35 in Thursday night's AFL National Draft.
Perez became the first Bendigo Pioneer to be drafted to North Melbourne in 12 years.
The skillful midfielder/half-back missed all of 2019 after undergoing a knee reconstruction late in 2018.
His form as a 17-year-old with the Pioneers and the AFL Academy was enough for the Roos to jump at pick 35.
His poise with the footy and great kicking ability on either side of his body were the attributes that attracted the Roos to the Sandhurst Football Netball Club product.
"It's massive, it's been a big year for me, obviously not playing,'' Perez told Fox Footy.
"To see North Melbourne have the faith in me, I'm thrilled and just can't wait to get into it.''
Perez said the frustration of undergoing a knee reconstruction had improved him as a person.
"Character building, mental toughness and putting things into perspective and becoming a better person off the field. Really rapt and keen to get back on the field that's for sure,'' he said.
Pioneers regional talent manager Steve Sharp said Perez's story should be an inspiration to other young footballers.
"What's Flynn done shows that if you do the work you can still get through in the draft if you have injuries in your top-age year,'' Sharp said.
"He's impressed AFL clubs this year with his professionalism and personality and he deserves this chance.
"He's a good kid and we're very pleased for him."
Paul McMahon (1997), Daniel Harris (2000), Ash Watson (2001), Hugh Foott (2001) and Robbie Tarrant (2007) are the only other Pioneers to be selected by the Roos in the national draft.
Ironically, Perez's Pioneers' team-mate and close friend Thomson Dow - a mad North Melbourne supporter growing up - was selected by Richmond with the final pick in round one.
Perez was the only Pioneer selected on Thursday night. Brady Rowles, Ben Worme, Aaron Gundry and James Schischka will now wait for Friday's rookie draft.
Related - Docherty mentors Perez, Kemp
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