A month out from the new year, Leeton-Whitton rising star Mitch Hardie already has one resolution for 2017 – securing a spot in Canberra’s North East Australian Football League (NEAFL) team.
Hardie is one of three Riverina players headed to the Demons, along with Temora’s Jacob Turner and the Northern Jets’ Mitch Maguire.
While Turner and Maguire have both tasted NEAFL it will be a step into the unknown for Hardie.
Through good mate Lucas Meline, he has been in touch with the Demons’ NEAFL coach, Kade Klemke.
“It’s obviously going to be the next level from AFL Riverina but he said the offer’s there if you work hard,” Hardie said.
“Hopefully I can pick up a couple of games and try out the next level, that’s what I’m looking forward to.
“Lucas said it’s a lot quicker and your skills have got to be a lot more precise, but he said it’s highly rewarding playing a better standard of footy.”
University is also calling for the talented midfielder, after taking a gap year for one final season with the Crows.
After enjoying a top-five finish in the Quinn Medal in 2015, Hardie was a part of Leeton-Whitton’s grand final campaign this year.
He said he sounded out Canberra-based teammates Toby Conroy, Neil Irwin, Michael Wescombe and Cam Griggs about the move, and has no regrets about spending an extra year at home for coach Jade Hodge’s return.
“I don’t think I’d be where I’m at if it wasn’t for those guys the last couple of years,” he said.
“It was worth staying and giving it one more shot. It was heart-breaking to come so close and lose (to Wagga Tigers) on the last day.”
Canberra Demons general manager Shaun Young said they’ve heard good things about Hardie and are looking forward to seeing what he has to offer.
While Turner and Maguire were recommended by GWS after coming through their academy and playing three games for the Giants reserves.
“We're extremely pleased to have all three come on board, the two Mitches and Jack,” Young said.
“It's a chance for them to experience the Canberra Demons NEAFL program and we're certainly looking forward to them joining our program and helping take our footy, and theirs, forward.”
The Demons are already into pre-season but Hardie will finish up work at the end of the year before moving.
Until then, he’s working up an appetite for fitness.
“I’ve got programs and stuff to do,” he said.
“There’s a lot of running – more running than I’ve ever done in my life.”
He hopes a solid pre-season will ensure he can give the opportunity his best shot.