There are few players who are taken in the National Draft, let alone as an early selection, after not playing football in their draft-eligible year.
Mitch Georgiades, last year’s No. 18 draft pick, is one of those players.
The former Subiaco Colts junior had done enough as a 17-year-old in the eyes of Port Adelaide’s recruiting team to be taken with their second selection.
Georgiades, who won a premiership with the Colts team in 2018, didn’t play a single match in his draft year after suffering a significant quad injury which originated from a corkie.
Likened to St Kilda captain Jarryn Geary’s injury of last year, only worse, Georgiades would spend nearly eight months of his top-age year recovering and undertaking a vigorous rehab program to ensure his body was right.
Despite the challenges Georgiades faced by not being able to take to the field, Subiaco Colts talent manager Kristian Dicton was optimistic it wouldn’t affect his draft chances.
“Mitch has got all of the footy bits sold – he’s fit, mobile and a very strong overhead mark – but his character and the type of bloke that he is really stood out,” Dicton told aflplayers.com.au following Georgiades’ Round 9 Rising Star nomination.
A strong under-17s year in 2018 earned Georgiades a place in the WA team for the National Championships as a bottom-age player and impressive performances were enough to put him firmly on the radar of club recruiters, despite going on to miss the 2019 season.
The biggest challenge for players in the talent pathway is finding and maintaining consistency in their game, but Dicton said it was something that Georgiades developed early on.
“Mitch had patches in every game where he looked the real deal but he was able to find that consistency and balance,” he said.
“Watching the highlights of the 2018 (WAFL Colts) Grand Final, you could see his contribution there and that for mine was a standout.”
But, it wasn’t only his on-field performances that highlighted the complete package Georgiades is.
His character and determination to overcome his quad injury – including the three surgeries it entailed – stood out to Dicton.
“That’s one big thing about him – his resilience,” he said.
“While all of his other mates were playing and doing the rest of being a teenager, Mitch was focusing on his recovery and rehab.
“(For Mitch), it was not so much about how he could play but how he dealt with a really significant injury when a lot of people might have given it away.
“At the end of the day, that’s why teams would have picked him.”
Despite not being able to support his WA teammates on-field, Georgiades was such a valuable member of the state side that he became their water carrier during the 2019 National Championships.
The state program wanted to keep him around in any capacity they could to help the team, even though he wasn’t able to play.
It’s no surprise to Dicton that the WA program made that decision as he believes Georgiades was considered a role model for many of his young teammates.
“Mitch is such a likeable and relatable young man that people do look at him as a role model and think, ‘If he’s made it, why can’t we?'”
“It’s good for the other kids to see that there’s light at the end of the tunnel and that hard work does pay off,” he said.
Having not played at all in 2019 and managing only one game before the COVID-19 shutdown period, Georgiades is used to having to bide his time but the forward hasn’t wasted his opportunity since being recalled to the Port Adelaide side in Round 8.
Georgiades is averaging 9.67 touches, almost four marks (one contested) and two goals a game this season, earning a Rising Star nomination following his three goal haul in the Round 9 win against Melbourne.
With a promising career ahead of him, Dicton isn’t surprised to see Georgiades embracing life at the elite level.
“He’s just a ripping young kid,” he said.
“He was always going to go on to big things.”
AFL RISING STAR NOMINEES IN 2020
Round 1 — Sam Sturt (Fremantle)
Round 9 — Mitch Georgiades (Port Adelaide)