THE NEXT Sudanese AFL footballer might be only months away.
Bior Malual first caught Werribee coach Mark 'Choco' Williams' attention with a blazing 3km time trial at Princes Park in September that left his teammates in his wake.
Malual, who boasts an enormous vertical leap and a wicked sidestep, was at that stage just one of 100 hopefuls trying to make the cut for the VFL Tigers.
The 22-year-old was on TAC Cup club Western Jets' list as a teenager and spent the 2017 season playing in the AFL Victoria Development League for the Northern Blues.
He competed in the Essendon District league last year and went on to win the best-on-ground medal for Airport West in the Division One Grand Final to kickstart his meteoric rise.
Malual, who stands 188cm but weighs only 66kg, spent recent seasons playing as a wingman but has mixed in more forward play this year and kicked nine goals in five matches.
"A lot of people worry about size, but if you've got some elite talent, who cares?" 2004 Port Adelaide premiership coach Williams told AFL.com.au.
"The potential is there and there's been some (AFL) talk about him, but there are a lot of good people this time of the year – it's still very early days.
"He's got great running ability, he makes good decisions, he's been winning one-on-ones, he's got really good football knowledge and poise, and he's a really good kick, so he's coming along well."
Malual's agent, Ryan Kogelman, of RDK Sports, confirmed there was interest from "multiple clubs" but added: "Bior has a lot of hard work ahead of him and he understands there is a long way to go."
Malual is bidding to join other footballers of Sudanese background in Aliir Aliir (Sydney), Majak Daw (North Melbourne) and Mabior Chol (Richmond) in the AFL.
Former Brisbane Lion Reuben William and East Perth's Ajang Ajang are both rated a chance of being picked up in May's Mid-Season Rookie Draft.
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There would be more buzz about Malual if he, too, was eligible for the mid-season draft, but he didn't nominate for last year's AFL drafts, like several others attracting interest.
Instead, the spring-heeled athlete will have to bide his time until the National and Rookie drafts in November to potentially hear his name called.
Even just at Werribee, perennial AFL hopeful Matt Hanson didn't nominate in 2018 because of a foot injury that ruined his season, while Tigers speedster Dane McFarlane is in the same boat.
Matt Hanson has impressed at VFL level, but is ineligible for the Mid-Season Rookie Draft. Picture: AFL Photos
Elsewhere, West Adelaide defender Elliot Dunkin, ruckmen Liam Wale-Buxton (Casey) and Jeremy Goddard (Claremont), and Williamstown onballer Liam Hunt are also ineligible for the mid-season draft.
Hunt, a first cousin of Marcus Bontempelli and Nick Dal Santo, is back in VFL ranks in 2019 after winning Coburg's best and fairest in 2017, then ending last year in local football at North Heidelberg.
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Players had to either nominate for the previous year's drafts – in this case 2018 – or have previously been on an AFL list to be eligible.
Those who committed to another year in a Northern or Next Generation Academy are also ineligible, and footballers who retired or delisted themselves must spend a season out of the AFL.
One high-ranking talent scout was critical about the Academy exclusion, arguing the club they are tied to should have first dibs, otherwise they are free to go to another AFL team.
The father-son system isn't active in the mid-season draft, so players such as Kyle Dunkley (Sydney) and the Neagles, Jydon and Matt (Essendon), will go into an open draft.
There is genuine frustration among recruiters and player agents that the AFL did not finalise the mid-season draft rules before last year's National and Rookie drafts.