CARLTON recruit Michael Gibbons has revealed a message from Richmond premiership star Kane Lambert helped to inspire his long journey to an AFL list.
After five years of heartbreak at the NAB AFL Draft, the 23-year-old Gibbons was eventually rewarded with a place on Carlton's list alongside fellow trainee Matt Cottrell last week.
Gibbons starred for a long time at VFL level with Williamstown, much like Lambert had with the Northern Blues and Williamstown before he was finally recruited to Richmond in 2015.
The pair played a season together with the Seagulls, with Gibbons revealing that Lambert had stayed in touch in an effort to help motivate his journey to an AFL club.
INSIDE CARLTON VFL star's dream realised, two No.1 picks stand out
"He reached out after the draft when I missed out," Gibbons said on Wednesday.
"He also reached out again over the weekend (after Gibbons was recruited to Carlton).
"Someone like him, who gritted for a long time and eventually got a chance and showed he could do it, he's definitely a good role model for me to look up to."
Despite dominating at VFL level, winning two JJ Liston trophies for the competition's best player, Gibbons was overlooked in five successive national and rookie drafts.
He said it led to moments of doubt, where he thought he might never make it in the AFL.
"There's moments when that creeps into your head," Gibbons said.
"It's hard to stay positive the whole time. But with the new (supplemental selection period) rule coming in and also the mid-year draft, I wasn't as disappointed.
"After sitting down with my manager, we discussed the possibility of coming in halfway through the year, rather than waiting a whole 12 months again."
Gibbons and Cottrell fill two of three available list spots at Carlton, who were able to sign replacement players for the injured Sam Docherty and the retired Tom Bugg.
The club is likely to save its last list vacancy for the newly re-introduced mid-season draft, with Gibbons hopeful that he'll be entrenched in Carlton's best team by then.
"I've played VFL for a few years now and I don't want to play any more VFL," Gibbons said.
"We'll just have to wait and see what happens. At the moment, I'm just really try to work hard and impress the coaches and the boys and earn their respect.
"From there, it's up to the coaches. We've got a really strong team of young players – along with the elite players – so if it takes me a while to crack in, I'm OK with that."