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Saturday, August 08 2020 @ 03:41 pm ACST

7 Internationals a feature of AFL Rookie draft

General News

With Wednesdays’ AFL rookie draft the international focus of AFL clubs continues to expand.
The formalisation of American recruits Jason Holmes (StKilda) and Patrick Mitchell (Sydney) along with Irish pair Ciaran Sheehan and Ciaran Byrne (both to Carlton) and another Irish lad Daniel Flynn to Port are the more traditional speculative ‘code conversion’ pathways for international recruiting typified in the past by names such as Stynes, Wight, Kennelly, Pyke, Tuohy, and Wallace..
Of more interest to Australian Football pathways overseas are the pair of Kiwis in Kurt Heatherley and Shem Tatupu. Both from New Zealand and both have been developing as juniors and have participated in the junior pathways for both New Zealand and regionally for the South Pacific squad.
As it is – the first list lodgement occurred in late October and Hawthorn nominated the pair then so there was no real surprise today – however, it is the formalisation of the process and the next phase can begin and in most cases continue for all of these players.

See below for an overview of the 7 internationals.

Jason Holmes (USA) – To : St Kilda; Background : college basketball; From : Chicago H : 203 cm, W : 104 kg, likely position : ruck
Notes : Aged 23, was identified at LA combine in April. Along with Mitchell and Mark Cisco he spent 3 weeks at the Sydney Swans Academy under Paul Roos. His 97 cm vertical leap is 4 cm shy of record holder Nic Naitanui. He stated he first came across Australian Football via cable tv about 6 years ago. Having also played soccer, baseball and punting in Grid Iron he feels he found some of the skills easier to pick up than had he been a pure basketballer. Of note too his older brother Andre plays with the Oakland Raiders in the NFL.

Patrick Mitchell (USA) – To : Sydney; Background : college basketball; From : Des Moines, Iowa. H : 201cm, W : 108 kg, likely position : ruck
Notes : Officially arrived already at the Swans, joining in with the 1st-3rd year players in pre-season training from last Monday Nov 18. After being identified by the Swans – whom he impressed with his work ethic and athleticism - he was offered an international rookie position back in August. Since then he has called upon the services of local Des Moines Roosters AFL club to help develop his kicking skills in particular. At 24, he played basketball for the University of North Dakota. Obviously the Swans have a partial blue print for success with Mike Pyke.

Ciaran Sheehan (Ire) – To : Carlton; Background : Gaelic and IR; From : County Cork H : 188 cm, W : N/A, likely position : forward
Notes : Joins Carlton on a 2 year deal. Described as skilled on both feet and a powerful, balanced runner. Previously trained with Carlton in 2009.

Daniel Flynn (Ire) – To : Port; Background : Gaelic and IR; From : County Kildare H : 190 cm, W : 92 kg, likely position : defender
Notes : Young Gaelic football star who represented Kildare at the All-Ireland championships. He impressed former Swans star Tadhg Kennelly at an International Combine in April, where he featured in the top five in the 20m sprint, 30m repeat sprint and agility tests. Br>

Kurt Heatherley (NZ) – To : Hawthorn; From : Bay of Plenty : Background : Basketball (also cricket, rugby and athletics); From : NZ H : 192 cm, W : 95 kg, likely position : defender
Notes : On the radar since 2009 as a 16 year old. Has come through the South Pacific ranks and was signed by Hawthorn on an International Scholarship. Moved to Australia and has played football through (while boarding at) Caulfield Grammar and TAC Cup with Sandringham Dragons. Much of 2013 on the sidelines recovering from hip surgery.
As reported earlier this year in the Age Kurt has covered a bit of ground already in his development. However he was first spotted by Hawthorn playing basketball in Tasmania. He has been a Kiwi U-14 basketball captain, and was also part of the Waikato U-14 Rugby side. Last year he came 2nd in an AFL draft camp for the 20m sprint at 2.84s.

Ciaran Byrne (Ire) – To : Carlton; Background : Gaelic and IR; From : County Louth H : 187 cm, W : N/A, likely position : midfield
Notes : Spotted in 2011 in Limerick and since had 2 training stints at Carlton. Reportedly driven to emulate the feats of new teammate Zach Tuohy.

Shem-Kalvin Tatupu (NZ) – To : Hawthorn; Background : Rugby Union; From : Auckland H : 197 cm, W : 105 kg, likely position : ruck
Notes : Like Heatherley was signed by Hawthorn to an international scholarship but unlike Heatherley remained in NZ. Has been developing under the AFLNZ structures along with visits to Melbourne. Played briefly this year at TAC Cup side Oakleigh Chargers for their Development team. He played 3 games at Oakleigh and also played with the Box Hill side in the VFL Development League. His bloodlines include his father who is a former NZ Auckland Warriors Rugby League player (Tony – also represented Samoa at 2 RLWCs).

- - - -

Hawthorn FC reported back in October that Heatherley was to join in pre-season training with the 1st-4th year players from Nov 18. Meanwhile Tatupu was due to begin this week (Nov 25) due to school commitments back at St Peters College in Mt Eden, Auckland. At St Peters Tatupu has featured in the first XV Union side, but, despite his fathers RL background – League was never a serious option despite interest from the Warriors in him joining their junior system. Ironically it was an AFL tournament when back at Kelston Boys High in 2009 that help lure Tatupu along with a KiwiKick T-shirt and a miniature Sherrin footy. Kelston won the tournament and Tatupu impressed enough to make the NZ U16s to play in the Oceania (South Pacific) cup.

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