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Swans draftee excited to join North Melbourne

Wednesday, November 22, 2023 - 1:40 PM

It might have been a bit of a nervous wait before he heard his name called out, but Riley Hardeman got his wish when North Melbourne picked him with the 23rd selection in the AFL National Draft, and he couldn’t be more excited.

Hardeman was talked about as being one of the first selections from Western Australia for the 2023 AFL Draft on the back of a season with Swan Districts that saw him captain the State 18s, make his WAFL league debut, and be a standout performer at colts level.

The 18-year-old from Caversham was outstanding in the colts at Swans throughout the 2023 season averaging 22.1 possessions a game largely as a hard running, long kicking defender.

The left-footer not only captained WA in the National 18s Championships in 2023, he was so impressive he was named at half-back in the All-Australian team but there was still a nervous wait as the opening night of the draft unfolded.

As the picks rolled on and then the festivities were drawn out with the challenges and academy selections, by the time North Melbourne had the No. 22 and 23 picks, Hardeman was ready for his name to be called at.

While his family are dyed in the wool St Kilda supporters and his grandma might need some convincing to change allegiances, he couldn’t be happier to land at North Melbourne.

"I actually haven’t seen Nan yet. She couldn’t take the dread of the draft yet, but I will see her shortly and she's going to have to switch up the Saints colours for blue-and-white I reckon," Hardeman said.

"It was a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the night to be honest. The lead up to my name being read out, pick after pick it was a very daunting experience.

"You just want your name to be called out and I think once it did it was just a complete wave of relief of emotions and excitement. But I can tell you, it hasn’t sunk in yet and I'm still wearing my North Melbourne jersey, and now I can't wait to get to the club and to start getting to work."

The 23rd pick in the first round of the draft ended up being the fifth selection that North Melbourne had already. While Hardeman will look to show perhaps he deserved to be taken earlier once he gets to Arden Street, being part of such an emerging young group is exciting.

"I think there was a bit of desperation coming into my thoughts as the picks went by and I was thinking that whatever team has the next pick surely will take me," he said.

"That kept happening after each pick but then it got to North Melbourne having two picks in a row and they didn’t take me with the first one, and I was just hoping they would with the second.

"Then once my name was called out, it didn’t matter where I was going and I'm absolutely rapt it's the 'Roos and I'm just so excited."

It didn’t take long after Hardeman's name was called out that his new coach, Alastair Clarkson, wanted to give him a video call. He might have been a little nervous at the start, but he didn’t take long to instantly take a shine to one of the AFL's all-time great coaches.

"One of the club personnel hopped on the phone to give me the heads up Clarko was going to give me a ring on Facetime and I was just like, "Oh here we go"," Hardeman said.

"Then he calls and he can come across as pretty intimidating, but we got off with a great start and he's an awesome bloke. He's pretty funny and tried to crack a few jokes and they rolled off so it was really cool talking to Clarko."

There might be some banter between the North Melbourne draftees about the order they were selected within those five selections over the opening 23 picks, ultimately Hardeman knows all that matters is who performs best once they hit the field.

"There was a bit of speculation about it and what it means being their fifth choice, but once you walk into the club it doesn’t matter what pick you were taken at and you're equal," he said.

"All that matters is how hard you work once you get there so I'll let that be a testament to my football and let that speak for itself."

Hardeman's life is now going to be a whirlwind and his first task is to hand in his resignation to The Vines and not turn up for his next scheduled shift on Wednesday.

From there, it's all about getting ready to move to Melbourne and be ready to start training next Monday, and then throw everything into the next month before a break over Christmas and New Year, and then come January the reality will sink in that he's an AFL player.

"I'm definitely trying to get to the club as quick as I can and I think a few people from the club will come over within the next few days to meet mum and dad, the little brothers and the family," Hardeman said.

"Then I'm probably set to fly over at the end of this week for the start of pre-season next Monday so it's all very fast and exciting.

"The first thing I have to do is resign from work at The Vines. I had my manager, Kirsty, over to celebrate with us and she said was expecting a resignation letter from me. So I told her I don't think I'll be able to work my next shift on Wednesday unfortunately.

"Then it's just everything from a logistical point of view and preparing myself to move over up until Christmas, and then I'm sure the full move will be when I return post-Christmas, but this is my first time getting drafted obviously so I'm not really sure what to expect."