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NFL trio realise AFL dream

THREE Northern Football League players realised lifelong dreams when they were selected in the 2016 AFL National Draft.

Patrick Lipinski, Matt Signorello and Mitchell Lewis were among the 77 players who were selected by AFL clubs on Friday night.

Lipinski was drafted by premier the Western Bulldogs – the club he grew up barracking for – with pick No. 28.

The 18-year-old had a standout season with the Northern Knights and was long considered the TAC Cup side’s best draft chance.

Lipinski featured among the Knights’ best players in nine of his 12 matches, overcoming a mid-season hand injury that forced him to miss the AFL Under-18 National Championship.

Speaking to NFL.org.au earlier this year, Northern Knights’ Talent Manager Rhy Gieshcen likened Lipinski to Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury.

“I see him as the sort of Scott Pendlebury type player, that’s a bit of a stretch as Pendlebury’s one of the all-time greats at Collingwood, (but) with his basketball background he’s a really good size and shape,” Gieshcen said.

“He’s 187cm, he can play as that smart half-forward as a third tall but he can also go into the midfield.

“When he’s got the football in his hand he’s really composed. Just like Pendlebury, the game slows down a bit. That’s the sort of player we liken him to, that really clean, classy inside mid who makes really good decisions.”

Lipinski began his football career with Montmorency, before moving to Eltham in 2012.

He enjoyed a standout 2015 season for the Panthers, where he led the Under-17 Blue goal kicking with 51 majors in 12 matches.

Lipinski joins fellow Eltham product Marcus Bontempelli at Whitten Oval.

Bontempelli has been a revelation in three years with the Bulldogs and this season claimed the club’s best and fairest in its drought-breaking premiership campaign.

Matthew Signorello was the second NFL junior selected in Friday night’s draft when he was selected by Adelaide with pick No. 62.

An NFL interleague representative at both Under-13 and Under-14 level, Signorello played the majority of his junior football with West Preston-Lakeside, before joining South Morang in 2013 and spending two years with the Lions.

He spent most of the 2016 season with Ivanhoe Grammar, winning the team’s best and fairest, and averaged 23 disposals per game in eight TAC Cup appearances with the Northern Knights to finish fifth in the club’s best and fairest.

Signorello’s ball-winning ability at stoppages is considered his major strength. He also has great endurance and speed and is a strong mark for his size.

Adelaide’s National Recruiting Manager Hamish Ogilvie told the club’s website Signorello had long been on the Crows’ watchlist.

“Matty Signorello is a player we’ve known about for a fair while and we tracked him pretty closely,” Ogilvie told AFC.com.au.

“We were a bit nervous getting him through to our second-last pick, but we’re really pleased (to get him).

“His real weapon is his ball take. He’s really clean and hard at the footy.”

It’s not often a player selected with pick No.76 becomes an instant household name, but a case of irony ensured former Wallan and Whittlesea big man Mitchell Lewis was one of the most talked-about selections in the 2016 draft.

Lewis was selected by Hawthorn just one month after the club traded out premiership heroes Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis.

Ironically, Mitchell Lewis wore number 53 for the Calder Cannons this year – a combination of the numbers Mitchell (5) and Lewis (3) wore with distinction for the Hawks.

The 18-year-old key forward already stands at 198cm and weighs in at 92kg, which enables him to also pinch-hit in the ruck.

Lewis started his junior football career with Wallan, before spending the 2013 season with Whittlesea’s under-15 side.

He has lined up for the Calder Cannons 19 times over the past two years, and this season booted 13 goals in 10 appearances.

Hawthorn’s Recruiting and List Manager Graham Wright said Lewis would be a project player for the Hawks.

“Mitch is a tall forward who can pitch in a bit in the ruck,” Wright told Hawthornfc.com.au.

“He is another one who is really competitive, marks the ball really well.

“He is a scratch golfer and an outstanding junior cricketer as well, so he’s been really good at a couple of sports.”

The Northern Football League congratulates Patrick, Matthew and Mitchell on being drafted and wishes them the best of luck throughout their AFL careers.