DEREK Hine can still remember the exact date Scott Pendlebury turned his back on basketball and committed to football. Now the veteran Collingwood recruiting boss hopes Harry DeMattia will be rewarded for making a similar decision in 2023.
The Magpies selected DeMattia at pick No.25 in Monday night's AFL Draft, months after the 18-year-old finally made the decision to commit to football full-time after dividing his childhood between cricket in the summer and footy in the winter.
DeMattia excelled as a teenager in cricket, representing Australia at a range of underage levels, including captaining the country in indoor cricket in the under 12s before reaching under-19 level last summer, where he spent last Boxing Day running drinks for the Australian test team.
But after committing to leaving no stone unturned to hear his name read out on Draft night, the Edithvale-Aspendale junior produced an impressive 2023 campaign, where his leadership – he captained Vic Country alongside Harley Reid and the Dandenong Stingrays – stood out in a season where he was named in the Coates Talent League team of the year and played four games at the national championships.
Pendlebury has produced one of the best careers in the history of Collingwood Football Club – one that isn't done with yet – and Hine sees some parallels with the confident, curly haired teenager that is set to inherit Taylor Adams' No.13 next season.
"You guys hear him and the way he speaks and the way he presents himself – he could be up here now – I think the cricket really lends to that," Hine told reporters on Tuesday night.
"It's not dissimilar to when Scotty Pendlebury comes out the basketball program and stepped straight into our program, he showed those same sort of leadership traits.
"I’m not saying Harry is Scott Pendlebury, but he has that leadership quality and he presents well in public and well in front of the group. He came in today and he had the coaches eating out of his hands.
"I keep referring back to Scott, but it is a very similar profile, albeit a different sport to Scotty. I can tell you the exact date – the 23rd of February 2005 – that's when he (chose footy over basketball). It was really exciting (when DeMattia chose football over cricket). For him to be able to step out of one elite program into another elite program, he has a head start."
DeMattia's versatility was an attraction to clubs this year, with the Victorian playing predominantly across half-back, through the middle and occasionally across half-forward, but Hine expects DeMattia to start his time at Collingwood in defence.
"We see him definitely starting as a high-back and there is no doubt we will see him in the midfield at some point in time; that is the plan; that will help us release Nick into the midfield more and gives us a bit more flexibility through that area," he said.
After swooping on DeMattia on night one, the Magpies selected Tew Jiath at pick No. 37 on Tuesday night, just before Hawthorn could match a bid for the Next Generation Academy product and the younger brother of rising Hawks star Changkuoth.
Hine said the Gippsland Power half-back plays a similar brand of football to his brother but is more developed than where 'CJ' was when he graduated from Xavier College at the end of 2017 and joined Hawthorn as a Category B Rookie.
"TJ is very similar to his brother, but probably a little bit further advanced than his brother at the same age," Hine said.
"He has got that bit between the teeth. He is an excited young man. He will be in at the club tomorrow. We will embrace him."