Each year, 70-odd fortunate teenagers get to live out their childhood dreams of being drafted to an AFL club.
For Tasmanian-born Kieran Lovell, that dream felt far away when he took the field for the first time in season 2015.
Even on draft day, the 18-year-old was preparing for a long night, after being told his fate would be known when the draft reached the 40s and 50s.
To his surprise, the Hawks swooped on him with selection 22.
While he now has the chance to play the game he loves, Lovell says the path wasn’t so promising coming into his draft year.
“It was always a dream to get drafted but it felt more like a dream than reality before 2015,” Lovell told aflplayers.com.au.
“When I played in the under-16s carnival [two years ago], in the first half of my first game, I played really well and had something like 20 touches at half time, but from there I didn’t play well for the rest of the carnival, and didn‘t do too much that year.
“I also had an injury-interrupted year when I was 17 and didn’t have much of chance to prove myself that year either. So going into this season, I definitely didn’t have expectations of getting drafted – I was pretty happy to make the Tasmanian team and it just went from there.
As the season wore on, Lovell was in rare form. The stocky inside midfielder averaged 35 disposals at the Under-18 carnival for his state side and set the stage alight during his agility test at the draft combine, boasting the best score from last year’s crop.
Kieran Lovell's turn: It was a bit of a shock hearing my name at 22. pic.twitter.com/BEu91ZcPah
— Hawthorn FC (@HawthornFC) November 27, 2015
With elite lateral movement and exceptional ball-finding abilities, the 174cm Lovell has already drawn comparisons to new teammate Sam Mitchell.
For Lovell, the links to the four time premiership player means he didn’t have to look far for a mentor at his new club.
“The club hasn’t really appointed anyone but I think Sam Mitchell is a great one because he plays the same role as me and has been one of the premier midfielders for the last decade.
“Being at Hawthorn, there are so many role models around to learn off and everywhere you look there’s someone to take a leaf out of their book, but Mitchell would have to be the main one.”
Post-draft, it didn’t take Lovell long to get into the swing of things as he jetted off to the club’s pre-season camp in Mooloolaba with his new teammates only two weeks since becoming a professional footballer.
While he’s become fitter and stronger with every session, he’s still adapting to the intensity of training.
“It’s pretty tough but what I was expecting. I finish at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, sleep for a couple of hours, get up, have dinner and then straight back to bed again.
“But it’s not often you go to a club that’s won three premierships in a row and has been pretty amazing so far.”
Lovell also has a rare opportunity to venture back to apple isle four times a season, with the Hawks playing four home games in Launceston in 2016.
With the likes of fellow Tasmanian Grant Birchall by his side, he received plenty of support from other Tasmanians around the league when his name was read out on draft day.
“I got a lot of messages from the Tassie boys who are already in the system saying they’re always here for a chat because they’ve been through it all. I think they’re a pretty close-knit group the Tasmanian boys,” Lovell says.
As a ready-made midfield option, Lovell may feature in the pre-season competition as most clubs continue to blood some youth before the season-proper.
And while the sky is the limit, he knows there’s a lot of developing to do before he appears at AFL level in 2016.
“The goal is to definitely play senior footy as soon as possible but it’s obviously going to be pretty hard to break into Hawthorn’s midfield group at the moment. I just want to grow and develop as a footballer and learn off all the blokes at the club to become the best player I can be.
“A new chapter starts now and hopefully I can keep playing good footy at whatever level I play at this year.”
You can follow Kieran Lovell on Instagram @kieranlovell35