FOR ESSENDON, Ben Ronke is one that got away. Well, sort of.
Ronke kicked a remarkable seven-goal haul for Sydney on Friday night in just his third AFL game.
But in 2016, he qualified for the Bombers' Next Generation Academy, which was introduced by the AFL to enhance the number of multicultural and indigenous prospects in the system.
SEVENTH HEAVEN Ben Ronke's breakthrough night at the 'G
The Calder Cannons product's mother is of South African descent and he was nominated by the Bombers as a potential category B rookie.
This rule, a one-off for 2016 in the first year of the NGA being established, allowed clubs to have automatic rights on an Academy player if they were not selected in the national or rookie drafts.
It means if clubs had passed over Ronke in the rookie draft, as they had all done in that year's national draft, then Essendon would have had first access to put him on their list as a category B rookie.
Clearly it did not come to that, with the Swans selecting Ronke with pick 17 in the rookie intake after a season that saw him win the Cannons' best and fairest.
|First player in VFL/AFL history to kick seven goals and have 10+ tackles||At 20 years and 144 days, the youngest Swan to kick seven goals in a game since Silvio Foschini in round four, 1982|
|The only Swan besides Lance Franklin to kick seven goals since Adam Goodes kicked eight in round 19, 2008||First player to kick seven goals or more at the MCG since Travis Cloke in round 10, 2015|
|Youngest player from any club to kick seven goals since Jeremy Cameron in 2013||First Swan to kick four first-term goals since Barry Hall in 2002|
The ability for clubs to list a Next Generation Academy player as a category B pick that year was added because, as the NGA had only just been established, they wouldn't have done enough work with the player during his formative years to get priority access.
That lasted only one year. Now clubs can automatically list their NGA players as category B rookies if they get passed over at the national draft, meaning they don't need to wait for them to be overlooked at the rookie draft as well.
WATCH: Five down for Ronke and it's still the first half
The upshot? Had Ronke been in last year's draft pool and been overlooked in the national draft, Essendon would have been able to automatically list him as a category B rookie before the full rookie draft (providing they met the NGA criteria and invested in his development for at least two years).
There were two players in this situation last year. Both Changkuoth Jiath (Hawthorn) and Derek Eggmolesse-Smith (Richmond) were overlooked in last year's national draft but listed by their respective clubs as category B rookies ahead of the rookie draft.
If Ronke was in the 2017 crop, Essendon could have done the same. Alas for the Bombers, he was not, and the Swans' punt on the speedster looks to be paying dividends.
Swans list and recruiting manager Kinnear Beatson, after drafting Ronke, described him as a "livewire" who reminded the club of a young Kieren Jack. "We love the energy that he plays with and the velocity at which he attacks the ball," Beatson said.
All of that and more was on show against the Hawks at the MCG, with Ronke kicking the Swans' first four goals and then slotting three more, including the sealer late in his side's comeback win.
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