HAWTHORN has fended off rival interest to re-sign exciting New Zealand prospect Kurt Heatherley.

AFL.com.au reported last month that opponents were circling the developing key defender after his standout VFL season.

But the 193cm rookie has recommitted to the Hawks, who first signed him as an international scholarship holder in 2009.

"The club has obviously put a lot of faith in me, so hopefully I can repay them over the next few years," Heatherley told the club's website.

"I've still got a lot to improve and a lot to learn, but hopefully over the next few years I can keep developing and achieve that goal of playing AFL football." 

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Having been spotted by Hawthorn's recruiting and list manager Graham Wright, the former basketballer spent two years at Caulfield Grammar learning the foreign game.

Such has been his rapid development that the 20-year-old is now being groomed as a potential replacement for veteran full-back Brian Lake.

He has held down a key post for Box Hill's VFL team in all 15 games this season and has been named in the best five times.

"What we liked about him then was that he was quick, big for his age, had good lateral movement and was pretty aggressive," Wright said.

"He's grown a bit since then, about five or six centimetres, and has done a really good job to get to where he is now. 

"He's still quick with good lateral movement, and he's improved his kicking and handballing and has worked really hard on his game."

Heatherley, who hails from Tuaranga, 200km south-east of Auckland, is not the only New Zealander on Hawthorn's list showing promise. 

Hulking 197cm key forward prospect Shem-Kalvin Tatupu, from Auckland, has stepped up to VFL seniors this year and booted 11 goals from six games.