Exciting new Bomber Mitch Hibberd says he is already beginning to feel at home at The Hangar after settling into his first day at the club on Monday.
The rookie recruit has already had a taste of AFL football, playing four senior games across a challenging four-year stint at North Melbourne.
Hibberd’s time with the Kangaroos was interrupted by a number of injuries and ended in disappointment when he was delisted at the end of the 2018 season. But a sensational season with Williamstown in the VFL this year set him up perfectly for another shot at the top level.
He commanded the attention of AFL recruiters, booting 10 goals and averaging 24.3 disposals and 6.9 tackles from his 20 games.
And during the NAB AFL Rookie Draft on Friday, the big-bodied midfielder received the call he had been hoping for.
“It all happened quickly; I saw it on the computer and then all of a sudden (general manager of list and recruiting) Adrian (Dodoro) rang me,” Hibberd said on Monday.
“It was a very emotional call; it has been a long journey. It was a very emotional time for me, my family and the Williamstown Football Club as well.
“I was very happy, it’s hard to explain. There’s been a lot of work go in and that work finally pays off, so you feel a bit fulfilled.
“But at the same time, you know all of the hard work starts now and the easy part of getting drafted is done.”
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While he had heard from the club occasionally throughout the year, Hibberd was surprised to see the Bombers swoop with selection 10 in the rookie draft.
The subsequent days have been a blur, but the 23-year-old knows what to expect this time around and he has quickly felt the love from the red and black.
“I didn’t really know what to expect when I woke up on Friday morning.
“When I saw Essendon I was a little bit shocked, but I couldn’t be happier, I think it’s a fantastic footy club and I can’t thank them enough for giving me another opportunity.
“Within an hour of getting drafted I was already down here, so it all happened pretty quickly.
“Everyone’s been super welcoming and I already feel at home a little bit, so it’s been great. I’m feeling the love this morning, it’s good.”
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The raw disappointment of missing out at North Melbourne was real for Hibberd, but he said it was important to move on at the Seagulls and avoid spending too much mental energy on his aspirations to return to the AFL.
And while he starred as Williamstown fought all the way through to a gut-wrenching Grand Final loss to Richmond, he is taking a similarly calm approach as he dons the sash.
“It’s hard, because if you think about things like (getting delisted) it gets you down a little bit,” he said.
“For me, I was just trying to play as well as I can each week and help our team to win. We were unlucky to lose the Grand Final.
“You do play AFL-listed players every week and you feel like you match them, but I was just trying to get better each week, I didn’t really think about it too much.
“We’ll just see over the next few months what happens.”