IF draft hopeful Josh Mellington has his way, the Murray Bushrangers star will be lining up alongside his childhood heroes at the Western Bulldogs next season.
The Bulldogs are one of at least a dozen AFL clubs who have shown interest in the Benalla forward, whose footballing fate will be decided tonight in the national draft on the Gold Coast.
The Bulldogs, as well as North Melbourne and grand finalist St Kilda, have made the 188-kilometre trip down the Hume Freeway to Benalla to woo Mellington, who capped off an outstanding season by finishing fourth in the TAC Cup best-and-fairest.
The 17-year-old, who was the Bushies’ leading goalkicker with 41 in season 2010, said while he would be happy to be drafted anywhere, he would love to land at the Whitten Oval.
“There’s not much you can do. It’s in the clubs’ hands,” Mellington said.
“I’ve just got to see what the clubs want. I’ve spoken to about nine or 10 clubs. I’ve heard of mates who have spoken to 15 clubs and the clubs they have spoken to are not the club they end up going to.”
The Border Mail Phantom Draft predicts Mellington will go at pick No. 73 (Sydney Swans), with his Bushrangers teammate Shaun Atley at No. 7 (Gold Coast).
The Bulldogs, who have given their first two picks — No. 22 and No. 41 — to father-son recipients Mitch Wallis and Tom Liberatore, could take Mellington with picks 74, 88 or 89.
Murray Bushrangers region manager Andrew Carson said Mellington’s seven-goal haul against the Western Jets in June made recruiters take notice.
“He’s probably the other one (along with Shaun Atley) where there has been some consistent interest,” Carson said.
“Some of his performances have really attracted some attention. The day he kicked seven against the Western Jets when we didn’t kick many was one (that stands out).”
Mellington plans to watch the draft with family and friends in Benalla.
He said if he doesn’t get drafted he would most likely train with VFL outfit Werribee, where former Benalla juniors James Saker, Will Martiniello and Farran Priest play.
“Going to draft camp there are obviously some clubs interested but you never really know,” Mellington said.
“There’s some chance, I’m hoping anyway.
“I’ve spoken to Werribee already because a few of my mates are there. If it didn’t work out I’d probably end up down there.”