Hibberd, Lovell tipped for draft

Mitch Hibberd
Mitch Hibberd

THE AFL’s expert on all things national draft has run his eye over Tasmania’s prospects for Tuesday night, declaring Clarence’s Mitch Hibberd and Tigers’ Kieran Lovell as the best chances of having their football dreams realised.

AFL talent manager Kevin Sheehan on Monday told Fairfax Media that he believed Hibberd would be selected somewhere in the 18-30 range, while Lovell was likely to go in the 30-50 range.

Sheehan said Hibberd’s size and versatility at 191 centimetres and 85 kilograms would make it hard for clubs to ignore him.

The 19-year-old midfielder/running defender, who has had to battle back from serious knee and shoulder injuries, has been compared with both Western Bulldog Marcus Bontempelli and fellow Tasmanian Jackson Thurlow after averaging 24 possessions a match in the under-18 championships.

He also impressed for the Allies against the Australian under-17 side in the AFL grand final curtain-raiser.

‘‘He played with great confidence whether it was across half-back or in the midfield,’’ Sheehan said.

‘‘That Allies game also allowed recruiters to focus on how he might unfold down the track, and how a player performs in a final at the G is ultimately what the draft is about.

‘‘Then in the draft combine, he did a 15.4 beep test and was second in the three kilometre, so that showed he’s got elite running ability and he uses the ball very efficiently.’’

Sheehan said Lovell’s ball-winning ability in the championships (where the All-Australian averaged 35 touches, including 42 against NSW/ACT), as well as in the TAC Cup (with an average of 32.5 touches) is what saw the 174 centimetre midfielder stand-out in 2015.

‘‘He was prolific when he was winning the ball, and he won it on the inside and on the outside, so he was a real ball magnet.

‘‘He’s got elite agility, is low to the ground with that low centre of gravity, and that’s how he plays and has an ability to get out of trouble, find space and use the ball well.

‘‘And in one of the games at Etihad Stadium he was able to stand on his opponents’ shoulders in a one-on-one and take a mark, which showed another dimension to his game.

‘‘He’s a natural footballer with good speed and endurance.’’

Burnie defender Ryan Gardner and Lauderdale Nick Dodge are other Tasmanians that Sheehan rated as a ‘‘chance’’ of going later in proceedings.

He described Gardner as the type of ‘‘tall defender that is hard to find’’ , while Dodge was a powerful medium forward who can ‘‘make something out of nothing’’ and is quite elusive.

Glenorchy’s Mitch Rainbird could also attract interest.

If the clubs are looking for a mature type, Sheehan said he would not be surprised if former Western Storm midfielder Matt Hanson got a chance after after winning Werribee’s best and fairest and making the VFL team of the year.

‘‘He is professional young fellow just in the way he prepares himself and he is respected in that area.’’

AFL Tasmania are hopeful of at least two players being drafted.

The national draft, which will be held in Adelaide this year, will be broadcast on Fox Footy from 6.30pm.


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