HAVING trained with the Bombers for the past few weeks, and followed them all his life, Jake Long will officially join Essendon as a rookie on Wednesday – the club where his father Michael grew into a champion.
The club confirmed on Monday it would pick the 18-year-old at this week's NAB AFL Rookie Draft, having nominated him under the father-son rookie pre-selection rule.
That gave the Bombers first rights to grab Long should he not be taken in the national draft, and the wiry youngster has prepared for joining the club by training with the senior squad in the past month.
He will follow his father in wearing the red and black, after Michael Long forged a brilliant career with the Bombers which spanned 12 seasons between 1989-2001.
Long played 190 games and two premierships for the Bombers, including the 1993 Grand Final when he won the Norm Smith Medal. He also championed the cause of indigenous players in the game by making a strong stance against racism.
His son moved to Melbourne from the Northern Territory five years ago to board at Scotch College, and although some injuries along the way have inhibited his progress, the Bombers have kept tabs on Long through the club's father-son academy program.
Their commitment to him as a rookie means the club will enter the rookie draft with just one live selection.
The Brisbane Lions are also expected to rookie-list tall forward Matt Hammelmann under the same pre-selection rule that also applies to academy players.
Hammelmann is a member of the Lions academy but was overlooked at last week's NAB AFL Draft, but the club is likely to make him a rookie on Wednesday.
"We're pretty proud of what he (Jake) has achieved," Michael Long said on Monday.
"He's just finished year 12 ... to top that off to be rookie listed by the club that's been a big part of my life, it's a proud moment for the family."
Jake said he was anxious in the lead-up to the draft but over the moon to be joining the Bombers.
"Ever since I was kid, I've loved the footy club and didn't want to go anywhere else," he said.
The father and son shared a few jokes at the club's Tullamarine base, with Jake saying dad liked to whip out the highlights' reel a bit too often.
Hands off, dad! Jake Long gives his father Michael the 'don't argue' on Monday. Picture: Getty Images
"He always tells me he's quicker than me but I'm not too sure about that," Long senior joked.
Long's talent was identified early by the Bombers, who invited him to join the James Hird academy - a training pool for potential footballers from non-traditional backgrounds and sons of past players.
Essendon list manager Adrian Dodoro said Long's potential shone through in a training session five years ago.
"There were two kids that stood out, a guy called Joe Daniher - he was about 14 or 15 at the time - and a guy who was a lot smaller who was called Jakey Long," he said.
"It's a great day for the club because the program identified these guys and we've helped nurture them."
"We're as confident with Jake as we are with our first two picks in the national draft," Dodoro said.
Jake isn't the first Long since Michael to appear on Essendon's list; nephew Anthony was delisted without playing a senior game. But the Bombers expect Jake to crash through for senior footy as soon as 2015.
"We're not putting any limitations on it; after a full pre-season, who knows what could happen?" Dodoro said.