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Agent reveals why Tigers pounced on a 27yo with a troubled past

The Tigers picked up Marlion Pickett at pick 13 in the Mid-Season Rookie Draft - AFL,Richmond Tigers,Draft
The Tigers picked up Marlion Pickett at pick 13 in the Mid-Season Rookie Draft

OPERATION: Get Marlion Pickett Drafted began, in some ways, about eight weeks ago.

Pickett had long tried to put himself on the AFL radar – and watched former South Fremantle teammate Tim Kelly do exactly that – but the stigma of his two-and-a-half-year jail stint as a teenager continued to linger.

Intervention was required to breathe life into his football dream, which was realised when Richmond selected the 27-year-old in Monday night's NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft.

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Pickett approached his now agent Anthony Van Der Wielen, who he had known for six years through the WAFL, in a plea for help.

Van Der Wielen immediately began working the phones, figuring out firstly what had stopped the hard-as-nails midfielder from being drafted until now.

Retired Dockers champion Paul Hasleby and former Magpie and Bulldog Todd Curley, who have both coached Pickett at South Fremantle, were also enlisted.

"He needed to get his story told," Van Der Wielen told AFL.com.au.

"It was about him not just being the guy who did two-and-a-half years in jail, because that was six or seven years ago and that was something he did when he was 17 or 18 years of age.

"Once we were able to get clubs to sit down and meet with him, they saw he's got a lovely family and four good kids, he's as fit as a trout and really clean-living and never misses a training session.

"I think people took the stereotype out and just saw him for who he is."

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The plan looked to have come unstuck on Saturday, when Pickett – a dual South Fremantle club champion – re-broke the right index finger that had ruled him out for all bar two games of the WAFL season.

The Tigers and Essendon were his keenest admirers, but his surgeon told him on Saturday night he faced another eight to 10 weeks on the sidelines.

The Bombers pulled out on Monday morning, but Richmond list manager Blair Hartley remained in contact and eventually let the Pickett camp know the good news just before the draft started.

"He's been impeccable since arriving at our football club and I'm rapt for him and it's been overwhelming all the responses on my phone," Van Der Wielen said.

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"He deserves this and he's a readymade body and could step straight in, but I think it's more likely it'd be next year."

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Pickett will fly to Melbourne on Wednesday, with his long-time partner Jess and their children remaining in Western Australia for the time being.

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So what sort of player are the Tigers getting?

"He hits as hard as Byron Pickett but he plays with a lot of grace," Van Der Wielen said.

"He wears the No.25 at South Fremantle, which was worn by our greatest ever footballer, (Hall of Famer) Stephen Michael, and there are some similarities between them.

"He's very athletic and you certainly don't want to get in his way, but he reads the play beautifully, so he'll probably be a big-bodied midfielder or a running half-back in the AFL."