By Jonty Ralphsmith
Hard-edged Gippsland tall Wil Dawson, star forward Zane Duursma and Dandenong co-captain Harry DeMattia have all found homes on night one of the AFL National Draft.
Dawson was selected by North Melbourne at pick 22 while reigning premiers Collingwood pounced on DeMattia with pick 25, its first selection at the national draft.
Dawson’s selection caps a remarkable rise in 2023, where he found a home in defence in the second half of the season, having had minimal exposure in that position throughout his entire junior career.
The 201 centimetre player’s versatility, competitiveness, ball handling, endurance and aerial dominance are skills he will take with him to the next level.
The Leongatha Parrots junior initially missed last year’s Power squad, the stature which now gives him glimmering upside holding him back at that stage before a growth spurt put him firmly on the radar.
“He’s an aggressive kid that likes to tackle and he has that grit to work hard inside the contest,” Talent Lead Scott McDougal said.
He will be accompanied at the Kangaroos by Gippsland teammate Zane Duursma, who was taken with pick four.
A Foster junior, Duursma is from a strong bloodline of talented footballers and was a highlights wizard in the front half at under-18s level in 2023, expected to settle as a 189cm half-forward.
A strong contingent of Power officials including coach Rhett McLennan and Talent Lead Scott McDougal enjoyed the night at Marvel Stadium with Duursma.
Meanwhile, DeMattia learned of his fate at his Edithvale home surrounded by family, friends and Stingrays teammates.
Strongly linked to St Kilda, the Saints bypassed him at pick 18, opening the door for the Pies to pounce.
The left-footer finished in the top 10 at the national combine for the 20-metre sprint, highlighting his electric speed which can be utilised across a variety of positions.
Coach Craig McRae called the newest Magpie in the moments following his selection, telling him he would inherit the number 13.
Taylor Adams wore the Guernsey in 2023 but has since departed the club, while cult figure Dale Thomas has also worn the jumper in recent times.
DeMattia has a high-level cricketing background which has given him an insight into high performance and professionalism and he is also noted for his leadership.
The 18-year-old was interviewed virtually on Fox Footy immediately following his selection, asked about the influence of ‘Rays coach Nick Cox, the decision between sports and what he will bring to the ‘Pies.
“Coxy’s been great for me and he’s been really understanding with footy and cricket and he’s told me to enjoy the journey, take every opportunity that comes and more importantly, have fun and help develop the people around me,” DeMattia said on Fox Footy.
“That was a big one this year and something I focussed on was really helping the group and we’ve got a couple of bottom-agers into top-agers next year in the room so it’s pretty special and it means a lot to me.
“When I got appointed captain of Dandenong, that took my attention (away from cricket and towards footy).
“I wanted to try and get around the group as much as possible, learn how I could best captain and lead the organisation and help develop everyone around the organisation so that naturally took over from my cricket.
“I want to be a very good person around the club who’s going to really buy into the values and direction we want to go and hopefully be part of back-to-back.”
Generational talent Harley Reid was selected with pick one to West Coast, followed by Tasmanian midfielder Colby McKercher who went to North at pick two and Gold Coast matching a bid for Academy key forward Jed Walter at three.
Stay tuned to the Pakenham Gazette online to find out the fate of other locals, selected on the second night of the national draft and at the rookie draft on Wednesday.