Riewoldt helps lure Irish teen to AFL - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Riewoldt helps lure Irish teen to AFL

Sam Lienert 29/03/2011 09:07:57 PM Comments (0)

The friendliness of Richmond star Jack Riewoldt has helped convince one of Ireland's most promising young sportsmen to sign with the AFL club.

The Tigers have signed 18-year-old John Heslin, an emerging Gaelic footballer, who will officially join them as an international rookie in the December draft.

Richmond recruiting manager Francis Jackson spotted the strongly-built 189cm player in the Irish university Gaelic competition, the Sigerson Cup, in early March.

Jackson said Heslin, who was also approached by Essendon, was the clear standout with his athleticism, decision-making and understanding of the game.

"He was head and shoulders above the rest," Jackson told the Richmond website.

"He's very quick, has got good lateral movement, an outstanding vertical leap, and he ran really hard."

As well as having impressed in Gaelic football and hurling, Heslin's soccer prowess was enough to earn representation in Irish under-age teams and a trial with English club Derby County several years ago.

But Heslin said he cut short that process because of the unwelcoming atmosphere.

"The manager rarely talked to us. It was almost like we were a number," he told the Irish Independent.

A warmer welcome at Tigerland, when Jackson quickly arranged a visit following his Sigerson Cup showing, convinced him to sign.

Riewoldt, who toured Ireland with Australia's International Rules team last October, was immediately keen to swap stories about a Dublin nightspot.

Heslin was even more impressed when the reigning Coleman Medallist lent him a pair of football boots.

"Everyone was welcoming from the start, and I know I was a bit older but it was a totally different atmosphere," Heslin said of the contrast with his Derby County visit.

"For the week I was there I was wearing Jack Riewoldt's boots because I needed moulded studs.

"Kenny Miller was at Derby then and he wouldn't even have noticed younger lads, let alone loan us his boots."

Heslin will complete the Gaelic football season with his club Westmeath, before returning to Richmond for an intensive 10-week football education program ahead of the rookie draft.

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