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Wally from Will...
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VFL hopefuls look to figure in rookie draft

from todays Age

FRANKSTON'S midfield ace Michael Hibberd has spoken to four AFL clubs over the past month but was one of many VFL players left disappointed after the national AFL draft.

North Ballarat speedster Isaac Smith (pick 19 to Hawthorn) joined former teammate Cam Richardson (pre-listed by Gold Coast before joining North Melbourne) as the only two VFL players to be selected after it seemed mature age recruits were the latest fad for some clubs.

Hibberd, who was a revelation in the VFL this year, returned to training with the Dolphins last week. He said he hoped to find an AFL club in the rookie draft on December 7.

''I was a bit disappointed because I spoke to a few clubs and I had a couple of visits from Geelong and Essendon but it shows that there are no guarantees,'' said the 20-year-old winner of the Fothergill-Round Medal, which is awarded to the player considered the best young talent in the VFL.

''If I don't get taken as a rookie, I will be really disappointed after the season I've had. I'll just keep training at Frankston and see what happens in the meantime but I'm not thinking about doing anything else except for playing AFL next year.''

Hibberd, who won Frankston's best and fairest, said he was surprised by the sudden interest in Smith.

''I haven't really seen him play because he didn't play against us. Apparently's he's a good player but then you consider a player like Michael Barlow had to wait two seasons in the VFL to be picked up,'' he said.

Others including North Ballarat's Myles Sewell and Stephen Clifton, Port Melbourne's Callum Sinclair and Box Hill's Ed Curnow were also left to wait another two weeks to determine whether their AFL dreams can be achieved despite strong interest from clubs over the past month.

VFL football operations manager John Hook said yesterday the league still held hope that many would be taken with the mature age rookie rule in the rookie draft - in which Greater Western Sydney will monopolise the first eight picks and Gold Coast will have the first pick of every other round.

The success of Michael Barlow at Fremantle and James Podsiadly at Geelong last season suggests many will be taken perhaps ahead of some AFL discards.