AFL: Martin Gleeson a star on the rise

A PHONE call from Essendon coach James Hird signified Martin Gleeson's rise from teenage talent to AFL footballer.



The Bombers took the skilful Koroit and North Ballarat Rebels defender with pick 53 in the AFL national draft last night.



Gleeson, 18, watched the draft unfold with his family in Koroit and spoke to Hird and Essendon chief executive officer Ian Robson shortly aferwards.



He met Essendon officials in Melbourne on Monday and had an inkling he could become a Bomber, but was surprised to be taken as early as he was.



"They seemed pretty positive and I was looking where their picks were, but I wasn't getting my hopes up too much or anything," Gleeson said.



"They said 'we like the way you play, you make good decisions when you've got the ball'."



Gleeson, who spent one year in the TAC Cup system, will join Cobden's Jackson Merrett at the Bombers.



"I have to be down there by at least Sunday because we're going to the Gold Coast for a training camp," he said.



"I just can't wait to get down there and get training. They seem like a good bunch of blokes. It'll be unreal."



The lightly-framed teenager, who at 70kg was one of the lightest players at the AFL draft combine in October, said he would love to make his senior debut in his first season.



"I'll probably play a lot of the year in the VFL," Gleeson said.



"I will probably have to put a little bit of weight on, so it would be unreal if I could play one or two senior games."



Gleeson's mum Claire said it was "unbelievable" watching her youngest child fulfil his dream.



"I think he was a bit surprised and couldn't believe it either," she said.



"It's been very much a whirlwind. We feel very lucky.

Martin made good choices. He's always been his own man."



Going up to school in Ballarat was all his decision.



"We said if he wanted to go to St Pat's we'd support him and if he didn't want to go we'd support him also," Claire said.



"It has paid off big time."



Claire said Rebels coach David Loader and region manager Phil Partington and St Patrick's College coach Howard Clark were important in helping her son this season.



Gleeson was one of three North Ballarat Rebels selected last night, with Kalkee's Tanner Smith joining Fremantle and Harrow-Balmoral's Michael Close selected by Brisbane.



North Ballarat Roosters' Dean Towers, of Colac, was snapped up by Sydney with pick 22.



South Warrnambool's Louis Herbert was overlooked and will turn his attention to the AFL rookie draft on December 11.

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