WHEN Callum Mills officially joins the Sydney Swans at this month's NAB AFL Draft, the club can thank its chairman Andrew Pridham for his involvement in securing the talented midfielder.
Mills was 13 when he was playing for the local rugby union side in inner Sydney when Pridham, then on the Swans board and a close friend of Mills' father Darren, asked the youngster to fill in for his son's AFL team, the Mosman Swans.
He played well, was told he had some promise and soon enough was a member of the Swans academy. Pridham's intervention many years ago will soon come to fruition, with Mills, one of the best midfielders in this year's pool, attached to the Swans.
Mills already carried good football stock. His grandfather Ray Mills was a former League player in Perth and for Western Australia in the 1960s.
The 18-year-old had a breakout season last year that established him as one of the key 2015 prospects. Injury restricted his campaign this season, but he has continued to train as much as he could with the senior Swans squad and will fit into their program seamlessly.
Mills put his runs on the board last year as a bottom-aged prospect, when he starred for New South Wales-ACT at the under-18 championships and was rewarded with selection in the All Australian team.
The midfielder is strong and tough, aggressive at the contest and a super overhead mark. For a midfielder, he's a great size, too (188cm and 86kg). He likes to float forward and hit the scoreboard, but he does his best work in the midfield when he can set up the game and control it.
He is also ultra-competitive. Last year he spent some time training with the Swans' senior team, and was part of a drill where the players were instructed not to tackle. But Mills, who was matched up against Sydney co-captain Jarrad McVeigh, couldn't resist, and dumped McVeigh to the ground, much to the premiership player's chagrin.
But it said something about Mills' qualities: he is hell-bent on winning and is ready to match up against senior opposition. Last year he gathered 40 disposals in a NEAFL game for the Swans reserves team as a 17-year-old.
Mills isn't the most polished midfielder by foot, but that's an extremely small point and not something that will hold him back in his career. He just uses his hands a bit more than other midfielders to make an impact around the contest.
This season Mills managed just three games after battling shin, foot and hamstring injuries, but they are all minor problems that shouldn't impact him long term. He has trained in an elite system with the Swans as part of the academy so already knows how manage his body.
Comparing anyone with Joel Selwood is probably fraught with danger, but Mills has plenty of his dogged and determined traits. Mills has shown against players his own age and those older than him that he's a clearance king who thrives on dominating that area of the ground.
A bid should come in the first four or five selections for Mills, and the Sydney Swans will match it and add him to their list. There's a possibility a bid doesn't come until a few spots later, but that wouldn't be reflective of his talent. He's a star.
If it wasn't for injuries this year, Mills would be getting widely spoken about as perhaps the best player in the draft pool. He is close to the most complete midfielder in it, he has high expectations of himself and more often than not he meets them. Mills is ready to play senior football next year and will slot right into the Swans' team.