Having been overlooked in three previous drafts, Kyle Hartigan says he’s determined to make the most of his opportunity on the Crows’ rookie list.
Hartigan, 21, realised his AFL dream on Tuesday, selected by Adelaide with the Club’s only pick (No.14 overall) in the Rookie Draft. It was reward for persistence for the key defender, who has played VFL football for Werribee since being overlooked in the draft as an 18-year-old.
“I’ve been passed over a few times, so I’m stoked to get the opportunity,” Hartigan told afc.com.au on Tuesday.
“The Crows showed a fair bit of interest in me and I’d been over to Adelaide a few times, but it was still a pretty nerve-racking experience. I’d been through the whole process a few times before, so I tried not to get too caught up in it and it was a bit of a relief today when it became official I’d found my way onto an AFL list.
“I’m honoured the Crows have given me a shot. Now, I have to work hard and make the most of it.”
A former member of the AIS-AFL Academy, Hartigan had a superb season as a 17-year-old playing for the Western Jets in 2008. The athletic backman was selected to represent Victoria Metro at the 2009 Under-18 Championships. Ironically, Hartigan was initially picked ahead of new Crows teammate Daniel Talia (Talia later found his way into the team and went on to earn All-Australian honours).
However, Hartigan had a quiet ‘09’ season compared to his standard of the previous year and was passed over in the national and rookie drafts. He signed with Werribee and started an electrical apprenticeship away from the field.
Hartigan, who has been one of Werribee’s most consistent performers over the past couple of years, was watched closely by Adelaide’s VFL observer Steve McCrystal.
Described by National Recruiting Manager Hamish Ogilvie as “one of the top key defenders outside the AFL”, Hartigan was a strong contributor in Werribee’s recent finals campaign, which ended in a five-point loss to eventual premiers Geelong.
He said time in the ‘real world’ had helped him mature as a person and a player.
“I was pretty raw and immature back then (in ‘09’),” he said.
“I think I’ve matured a lot in the three years I’ve been at Werribee. I’ve got a different outlook on life and I’ve developed a harder work ethic. I’ve had to go to work full-time and earn a living.
“It’s been tough juggling work and footy, but it’s made me see how hard it can be and that I’d rather be playing footy than going to work every day. Being on an AFL list is an opportunity not many people get.
“To get paid to do something you love doing is unbelievable and I’ll cherish it.”
During his time at Werribee, Hartigan has played on a number of talented AFL-listed forwards, including Geelong trio Tom Hawkins, James Podsiadly and Mitch Brown, as well as former Carlton and Brisbane Lions spearhead Brendan Fevola.
“I’ve played on a few good forwards – some have beaten me and some I’ve beaten,” he said.
“I played on ‘Fev’ last year and learned a lot. Hopefully, if I get the opportunity to play on a forward of his calibre or better in the future I’ll be better for that experience.”
Hartigan kept notes of his tactics against certain opponents, which he presented to National Recruiting Manager Hamish Ogilvie and List Manager David Noble in a pre-draft interview.
“In one of my first interviews, Hamish and Dave Noble asked me a few questions about some of the players I’d played on and how I would play them,” Hartigan said.
“I got an i Pad for my 21st birthday, so I jotted down a few notes on that and took it to the next interview. So, I came pretty prepared, but it was still a gruelling interview.”
Hartigan also took part on testing at West Lakes, where he recorded an impressive 20m sprint time of 2.95 seconds. The VFL Academy member joins an impressive list of rookies to emerge from the Werribee Tigers, who were this year coached by Western Bulldogs legend, Scott West.
“James Podsiadly spent a lot of time with Werribee and was drafted pretty late in his career. Michael Barlow is another, who is doing really well at Freo. Brad Mangan got drafted to North Melbourne last year and Dale Morris and Ben Hudson are another two, who came out of Werribee,” Hartigan said.
“It’s the mature-age footy factory I think.”
Hartigan will begin his career as a Crow on Wednesday. He has been given the all-clear to leave his job after providing a cryptic explanation to his employer last week.
“I didn’t want to leave work in the lurch, so I told my boss, ‘the rookie draft is next Tuesday. There’s a chance I might get picked up. I can’t tell you by which club, but I could be leaving straight away’,” he said.
“They were fine with it. They like footy, so fortunately they understood.”
Hartigan will be reunited with former schoolmate Shaun McKernan and Vic Metro teammate Talia.
This time, it will be his turn to learn from Talia and veteran defender Ben Rutten.
“I’m going to try to get as much knowledge as I can off Ben Rutten and Daniel Talia,” Hartigan said.
“Ben Rutten has been playing for a long time. He’s a great defender and has been All Australian, so I’ll try to pick his brain and learn a fair bit. Hopefully, I can improve though those guys.”
Hartigan adds ready-made depth to Adelaide’s defensive stocks, but at only 21-years-old – the same age as Talia – is a good long-term prospect.
“If the Club needs some back up for ‘Truck’ or Dan next year, I’ll put my best foot forward and see if I can get a position in the backline. Whenever an opportunity presents itself, I’ll be ready to go,” he said.
“Hopefully, I can do that as soon as possible, but there’s a lot of work to be done and improvement I need to make to get to that point. I can’t wait to get stuck into pre-season and learn some new stuff.”