WHEN Bradley Hill requested a trade from Hawthorn to Fremantle at the end of 2016, there were few footy fans more excited than Ian Hill.
The teenager looks set to be one of the most sought-after players in this year's NAB AFL Draft, and carries some of the brilliant run-and-carry traits of his second cousins – and star Dockers – Bradley and Stephen Hill.
But until recently, Hill had not met the pair, having only spoken through Facebook occasionally. But with all three settled in Perth, a dinner was organised through the Hill brothers' manager, a teacher of Ian and some help from the Dockers' recruiting team. Since, they've become much more regular catch-ups.
"Our grandfathers are brothers, which makes us second cousins. I was a bit nervous at first when we met, but I got used to seeing them and because Bradley is the loud one he really makes you feel comfortable," Hill told AFL.com.au during the NAB AFL Academy's training camp in Florida this week.
"We talk a fair bit of footy and he's told me to play my normal game and go for it. It would be good to make it to the AFL like they have done, and they've achieved a lot through their careers. It would be amazing."
Hill is heading in the right direction for that to happen in November this year. The West Australian is an eye-catching prospect with pace, skills and class. He is small and light (175cm, 64kg), but is keen to add to his frame this year without taking away from his fleet-footed strengths.
He has genuine spark on the field, which has been evident during the Academy's training sessions at the IMG Academy during its high-performance camp.
And off it he has some buzz too, with a bleached blond haircut – "I saw Jamie Elliott's hair and thought I'd try the same," he said – and the nickname 'Bobby', which was coined by his parents when he was a kid obsessed by the Bob the Builder cartoon. "It's just stuck since then," he said.
Hill begins his draft season as one of the top talents based on his showings last year, which included a starring role in Western Australia's under-18 championships win over Vic Country at Etihad Stadium.
Ian Hill's cousins, Bradley and Stephen, at Fremantle training. Picture: AFL Photos
"I'm not sure what happened that game but I ended up getting down the ground a lot more and found more of the footy (Hill had 25 disposals and five inside-50s). If I can get a bit fitter it will be easier to do that more rather than just playing as a forward," he said.
Hill's season wasn't all smooth going last year though, after injuring his shoulder in the second round of his school's season. Scans showed he needed to have a reconstruction, but he was so desperate to play in the under-18 carnival for his state that he held off on an operation until later in the year.
It made for some uneasy moments, but he's glad he waited. He begins this year ready to step up again.
"After I decided to have surgery later in the year and keep playing, I was terrified early on that I was going to do it again," he said.
"But the recovery has gone well and I just need to get it a bit stronger. This year I just want to play to my strengths and be noticed out there."