By Jackson Clark
An increasing number of mature-aged players are being given an opportunity on AFL lists through both the National Draft and also the Rookie and Pre-Season Drafts. Most of these players were overlooked during their teens and had to work hard in state league competitions like the VFL, SANFL and WAFL. One player who has taken a different route is Tasmanian Mitch Thorp. The 194cm key position was a highly touted junior but failed to make the most of his chances at the highest level the first time. However his performances this season in the Tasmanian State League have caught the attention of up to a dozen AFL clubs looking to acquire his services for next year and beyond.
Thorp completed almost the perfect season while coaching former struggling club South Launceston to a premiership. Individually, he was the standout player in the TSL competition averaging 24 disposals and 11 marks per game while kicking 78 goals for the year and taking out the league best and fairest medal. He also dominated the mid-year interleague clash against the NEAFL Eastern Conference where he took a dozen marks and finished with 6.3.
Thorp was taken at selection six by Hawthorn in the 2006 National Draft in between two current AFL stars that have gone on to captain their club. Port Adelaide selected Travis Boak one pick before the Tasmanian while Geelong superstar Joel Selwood was taken at pick seven. While we all know how well Boak and Selwood have turned out for their respective clubs, Thorp managed only two games at AFL level before being delisted at the end of 2009.
There were murmurs about Thorp’s attitude problems at the Hawks including the infamous sledge to Tom Harley during a VFL game. He also faced tough competition cracking a spot in a dominant Hawks forward line that included names like Roughead, Franklin and Williams. His constant injury problems were another factor in cutting his time in the AFL short. He is now injury-free and his professionalism and dedication to his football can be considered one of Thorp’s strengths. After impressing Werribee coach Simon Atkins during his time at the club, Thorp made the move back to his home state of Tasmania. The added responsibility of a coaching position and also his young family made Thorp mature as both a footballer and a person.
At 24, Thorp will be at the prime age to make an impact at AFL level and he offers tremendous aerobic ability to be a hit up option up the field and also a genuine marking target when playing deep. Clubs in need of forward-line depth could do far worse than recruiting a player like Thorp, who could slot straight in and make an immediate impact at his new club. Thorp would be a good fit for clubs like Carlton, Western Bulldogs and Brisbane but the lottery of the draft is that he could find himself anywhere.
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