Record four top 20 AFL Draft picks for NSW/ACT

(R) Jacob Hooper poses with Matthew Kennedy (L) and Callum Mills during the NAB AFL Draft. (Photo by Sean Garnsworthy/AFL Media)

Eight NSW/ACT products were drafted, including an unprecedented four players in the top 20 selections, at Tuesday’s NAB AFL National Draft in Adelaide.

The AFL National Draft began in 1986, and until this year NSW/ACT has had just 13 players in total taken in the top 20 over the 29-year period.

But at the Adelaide Convention Centre a quartet of NSW/ACT players had their names called out early: Sydney’s Callum Mills (#3), Leeton’s Jacob Hopper (#7), Wagga’s Matthew Kennedy (#13), and Canberra’s Harrison Himmelberg (#16).

Under the first year of the AFL’s revamped Academy bidding system, the Sydney Swans matched Melbourne’s bid to take their Academy product Mills with pick #3, while the GWS GIANTS also matched bids to take Hopper, Kennedy, and Himmelberg.

Capping off a stellar night for the region, Narrandera’s Matthew Flynn was taken by the GWS GIANTS with pick 41, with Western Sydney product Michael Hartley going to Essendon with pick 68.

Canberra’s Aaron Vandenberg (Melbourne Demons) and Gunnedah’s Sam Naismith (Sydney Swans) rounded out the eight locals to be primary listed for the first time, with both men upgraded from the rookie lists of their clubs.

Overall NSW/ACT represented 8.6% of the total Draft pool, continuing the strong trend of top end talent coming from the region in recent years.

AFL NSW/ACT CEO Sam Graham was delighted with the Draft result.

“Having eight players drafted from the NSW/ACT region is an outstanding result, and to see four NSW/ACT boys in the top 20 picks is unprecedented. This is a watershed moment in the history of AFL in NSW/ACT.

“I applaud the fantastic work of the NSW/ACT talent team, headed by Darren Denneman, in conjunction with the PM Capital GWS GIANTS Academy and the QBE Sydney Swans Academy, for developing these boys into outstanding players and outstanding young men.

“It’s also very important to pay tribute to the local clubs of all these players. Junior football, and community football at the grassroots is essential for talent development and all eight of these players started at local clubs all across NSW/ACT.

“The AFL football community should be incredibly proud of this landmark result and I hope it will inspire the next generation of footballers, as they watch these NSW/ACT players become local heroes.”

The drafted players will return home from Adelaide today and arrive at their new AFL clubs later in the week, to begin pre-season training.

NSW/ACT players who missed out in last night’s National Draft will get another chance to make their way to an AFL club via Friday’s rookie draft.


#3Callum Mills – Sydney Swans (North Shore/QBE Sydney Swans Academy)
#13Matthew Kennedy – GWS GIANTS (Collingullie Ashmont Kappoka/PM CAPITAL GWS GIANTS Academy)
#16 – Harrison Himmelberg – GWS GIANTS (Eastlake/PM CAPITAL GWS GIANTS Academy)
#41Matthew Flynn – Sydney Swans (Narrandera/PM CAPITAL GWS GIANTS Academy)
#68Michael Hartley – Essendon (Collingwood)
*Rookie upgrades: Aaron Vandenberg (Melbourne Demons), Sam Naismith (Sydney Swans)

AFL NSW/ACT CEO Sam Graham (far left), with the AFL NSW/ACT Talent team and Callum Mills, Jacob Hopper, and Matthew Kennedy. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)

AFL NSW/ACT CEO Sam Graham (far left), with the AFL NSW/ACT Talent team and Callum Mills, Jacob Hopper, and Matthew Kennedy. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)