UPDATE: Kiwi Hawk spreading wings

UPDATE: HAWTHORN has committed to listing New Zealand prospect Kurt Heatherley as an international rookie when he becomes eligible at the end of next season.

The 17-year-old will join the club in a near full-time capacity in 2013, training alongside his future Hawks teammates at Waverley while playing with the Sandringham Dragons in the TAC Cup.

He will then be added to the club’s list for 2014.

Heatherley, who signed with the Hawks on an international scholarship in late 2009, is now considered one of the game’s leading underage key position talents.

So good has been his development since taking up football after being spotted by the Hawks as a 14-year-old, experts consider him a likely top 20 NAB AFL Draft pick if we was in the draft pool.

He has joined the AIS/AFL Academy, and turned heads at this year’s NAB AFL Combine when he finished second in the 20m sprint in a time of 2.84 seconds.

Heatherley’s parents will move to Australia to further support him, after he spent the past two years boarding at Caulfield Grammar School.

Hawthorn head of coaching and development Chris Fagan described the 192cm, 83kg teenager as a “real competitor” with a great attitude.

“He’ll do a full year of training with us this year, which is pretty exciting,” Fagan said.

“He’ll mix that with going to the Dragons on a Monday night for their review and training with them later in the week.

“In between times we’ll get good access to him.

“We’ll be focussing on improving his kicking and his game sense.

“We’re pretty pleased with his progress.”

Heatherley’s strong development is a coup for the Hawks, particularly given their dearth of top-end NAB AFL Draft picks in recent seasons.

With the draft dominance of expansion teams Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney, combined with Hawthorn’s high ladder finishes and trades for mature-age players, the club has not had a top 15 pick since Cyril Rioli in 2007.

It has meant Hawks recruiters have had to cast the net wide for potential talent, with Heatherley only one example.

The club also plucked Amos Frank from the remote Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in north-west South Australia at the end of 2011, and has this year signed its first Irishman, Ciaran Kilkenny, as an international rookie.

“You never know where you might find one,” Fagan said.

“With Ciaran and Kurt, they’ve definitely got a lot of promise athletically.

“It’s just a matter of whether they can learn the game and master the skills of the game.

“We’ll be doing our best to make sure that happens.”


This story was first published on afl.com.au and written by Mark Macgugan