Luke Pedlar hoping to showcase Selwood-like traits at AFL level

DRAFT HOPEFUL: Kingston's Luke Pedlar is one of the few players from the South East likely to be drafted this year.
DRAFT HOPEFUL: Kingston's Luke Pedlar is one of the few players from the South East likely to be drafted this year.

For many young footballers, the dream of playing in the AFL comes quickly after touching the leather of a football for the very first time.

Very few get the opportunity to play at the highest level, however, Kingston junior and SA draft bolter Luke Pedlar is hoping to have his name read out during the 2020 AFL Draft on December 9.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many draft hopefuls around the country to combat a year like no other, the passion and desire to live their ultimate dream has continued to burn bright.

For Pedlar, he has had to overcome a number of hurdles throughout the year, with a shoulder reconstruction forcing him to miss a chunk of the season.

"It has been a difficult year to be fair - a shoulder reconstruction made me miss the first half of the season. I didn't get back playing until late June," he said.

Despite the setback, the strongly built 18-year-old showcased his trademark work-rate and was able to line-up in Round 1 of the SANFL U18 competition against Norwood.

"Leading into the game, I didn't have much game preparation. I was also a little nervous, because I was unsure how my shoulder was going to hold up," Pedlar said.

The worries quickly left the inside midfielder as soon as he crossed the white line, as he put on a best-on-ground performance, amassing 28 disposals, six tackles and a goal in a 44-point win against the Redlegs.

Pedlar would go on to play three further games at U18 level, showcasing his power, tackling and scoreboard impact. He also was able to continue his form playing for Prince Alfred College (PAC).

A late season injury would cruel him of the opportunity of playing in PAC's All Schools Cup Grand Final win against Henley High School, and the NAB AFL All-Stars match in September.

Despite this year's small sample size, Pedlar has been able to show AFL recruiters the many attributes that have seen him labelled as a draft bolter.

However, he will be the first one to point out that he is far from the complete package at this stage.

"This year, I have been trying to clean up my disposal - I really want it to be as good as it can be," Pedlar said. "I also want to be a smarter footballer when it comes to things like my body work."

With the willingness to get the best out of himself, Pedlar is the type of person to leave no stone left unturned.

Since last year, the inside midfielder has worked closely with former Adelaide Crows utility Michael Doughty, who has given the youngster some advice on what is required to become an AFL player.

"He has given me advice about how I can get in the best shape I possibly can. We also go through game vision and look at ways to improve my game," Pedlar said.

Being considered as one of the many South Australian draft prospects this year doesn't happen by accident, with Pedlar's junior days at Kingston playing a huge role in where he is today.

"I was very fortunate to win a flag in U14's with some of my best mates," Pedlar said.

"We were always competitive with each other, and tried to train harder than anyone else - we were determined to have success.

"I was able to play a couple of games of A Grade football at the age of 15. We might not have been a great team then, but I cherish those moments."

JUNIOR DAYS: Luke Pedlar always showed promise as a junior at Kingston.

JUNIOR DAYS: Luke Pedlar always showed promise as a junior at Kingston.

While the inside midfielder isn't one for comparisons, he said there are a couple of current AFL players who he bases his game off of, with one of them being Geelong star Joel Selwood.

"In the midfield, I love the way Joel Selwood attacks the football, I am inspired by him. When I am playing forward, I look at guys like Jordan De Goey and Cameron Zurhaar," Pedlar said.

With the draft only two weeks away, it is a nervy time for all draft hopefuls, especially when many have been unable to have the year they would have liked due to the pandemic.

Instead of face-to-face meetings with AFL recruiters, Pedlar has had to settle with conversations over Zoom.

Draft experts believe the 18-year-old is a chance to be drafted from the third round onwards, but whether its pick one or the last pick in the Rooke Draft, he is hoping he can live out his childhood dream.

"If I can get to do what I have loved since I was a kid, then that would be incredible," Pedlar said.

"I am extremely fortunate to have great parents who have allowed me to follow my dreams - they have been massive supporters for me."

There's no doubt Kingston will be holding their breath on draft night, hoping he can become the third person from the town to play AFL football.