FIRST-year VFL player Connor Hinkley is soaking up football knowledge his North Melbourne coaches are sharing.
The Koroit premiership player, now playing for Blackburn in the Eastern Football League, joined the Kangaroos in the pre-season and has played three of their seven games to start 2022.
Hinkley, 21, said it was an ideal way to develop his football.
"The coaching we get is pretty outstanding," he told The Standard.
"We have Leigh Adams as our head coach and he played 100-odd (AFL) games for North Melbourne and Gavin Brown from Collingwood is an assistant coach and Tom Lynch from Adelaide is also an assistant coach.
"The insights they offer are pretty outstanding and just the access to world-class facilities at AFL level.
"You can get some things off the AFL boys in terms of their preparation and we get into the gym every now and then with them and you see how much they put in to get themselves ready and you try and take little bits from that."
The former GWV Rebel is in the final year of a business degree at Monash University.
He joined Blackburn in 2020 and harboured ambitions of testing himself in the VFL.
Those dreams became a reality when North Melbourne showed interest.
"At the end of last year I got a call from Leigh and he said 'come down to train', Hinkley said.
"They invite a fair few down the train and I did about four weeks pre-Christmas and they let you know if you can come back or not and he told me to come back so I did.
"He said one night after training he said 'we're going to give you a contract'. It was great. It was a lot of hard work (to get there).
"It was something on the radar and something I hoped to do in the first year I moved to Melbourne (in 2020) but with COVID we didn't get to play any footy.
"(Last year) there was a bit of interest from a couple of clubs but it was mid-season and I wasn't quite ready for it.
"This year I've gotten a bit stronger and fitter and was ready for it."
Hinkley, who lives with fellow Warrnambool exports Ollie King and Dailin Toone and works part-time at a pub, made his debut in round one in unusual circumstances.
"It was a bit of a weird one. I wasn't named in the team originally and it was about 12 o'clock on the Sunday and I was warming up for a practice game with Blackburn and got a call from the North coach saying 'hey, we've just had one go down, we need you to play'," he said.
"I drove to Arden Street and we played at 4pm so it was a bit of an interesting build up. It was pretty cool. We played Williamstown and won by four goals and I played with a fair few AFL-listed boys."
Hinkley, who plays across half-back and can be swung forward, embraced the challenge.
"It was pretty physical and the running was something that you can do all the pre-season training you want but I probably wasn't prepared for it," he said.
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