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Best of friends share Lion hopes

Matthew Hammelmann of QLD in action during the 2013 NAB AFL U18 Championship match between Queensland and the Northern Territory at Victoria Park on July 4, 2013. (Photo: Sean Garnsworthy/AFL Media)
Matt Hammelmann in action for Queensland last season
FOR the past five years, Liam Dawson and Matt Hammelmann have trained with the Brisbane Lions Academy each summer, hoping to eventually join the club on a permanent basis.

This season will determine if that happens for one, or both, of the Queenslanders.

Dawson and Hammelmann are tied to the club as zone Academy players, meaning the Lions have priority access to them.

Like the father-son process, another club can bid for the pair, but the Lions can match the bid ahead of the draft and secure the players, which they did last year with tall forward Jonathan Freeman.   

The 18-year-olds are out to show the Lions, and everyone else, that they are worth places on an AFL list. But given their link to the Lions already their position is a little bit different to other draft hopefuls.

"It's a little bit daunting because you don't really know what they want to do yet. They've given us no indication yet so we don't really know what's going to happen," Dawson told AFL.com.au during this month's AIS-AFL Academy tour of Europe.

"It's just sort of hearsay at the moment but I've got to put my best footy out there and play well in the Lions reserves team and hopefully go well from there."

Hammelmann, a 196cm key position player, and Dawson, a mobile defender, played for the Lions' NEAFL side in round one of its season, before heading to Europe.

They will focus on performing for Queensland's under-18 team in the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships, and likely return to the Lions reserves side later in the year to show their wares.

Already they feel improved players because of the Europe trip, which they undertook with the best prospects their age from around Australia.

Hammelmann, who has generally played up forward, got the chance to try a move to defence. It started at the MCG against Collingwood's VFL side, when he lined up on Quinten Lynch, and continued while away, swapping from end to end against the European Legion.

"Playing on Lynch, I was just trying to compete as much as I could, and bring the ball to ground," Hammelmann said. "It was definitely a challenge, but it was a good one. I enjoyed it.

"On the trip I've learned a fair bit about keeping your concentration for the whole period and leaving no stone unturned. That's what it's like at an AFL club.

"You've got to be switched on all the time and not make any mistakes. You need to be on the ball all the time."

At 188cm, Dawson isn't as tall as Hammelmann, but he reads the ball well in the air and kicks neatly. He's working on his tackling and his running, and wants to be more aggressive on the field.

He's also keen to share this year with Hammelmann, who has become a close friend. They roomed together on the London leg of the AIS-AFL Academy's trip and usually sat next to each other on the team bus, and are ready for what might be ahead.  

"We talk about it, and talk about our footy and how we're going," Dawson said.

"I've grown up with him, and pretty much played all my footy with him as well, so it's good to have someone there who knows what it's like. I wouldn't want to share it with anyone else."