With his electrifying pace and enthusiasm, Port Adelaide rookie Kane Mitchell looks every bit at home during his first AFL pre-season
But even a back-to-back WAFL premiership player and reigning Sandover Medallist known for his fitness and outstanding preparation finds it tough at the elite level.
“It’s probably 10-fold,” Mitchell said when asked to compare Port Adelaide training with what he was used to with his Perth side.
“We did train quite hard at Claremont, but at the professional level … it’s definitely a step up.
“The body is starting to get used to it, but it’s the morning skills session and then the running, then going to have lunch with everyone and then the afternoon weights and wrestling and whatnot in the afternoon that my body’s just getting used to.
“It’s the (long) days that kind of get you, but I’ve just been really enjoying it. Everyone’s just working hard together.”
A ever-running outside midfielder, Mitchell isn’t afraid of work and has made it a trademark as he persisted to keep his AFL dream alive during his standout year in the WAFL.
His breakthrough came in December - 10 days after his 23rd birthday –when Port Adelaide called his name with its selection number five in the AFL Rookie Draft.
“There was always the dream of playing AFL or being on an AFL list and when you get to 23 you start to wonder if it is going to happen,” Mitchell conceded.
“I just wanted to improve and continue to improve my football and if it meant it got me to an AFL list, then that was great. If not, I was just happy continuing to play with Claremont and hopefully get another couple of flags.”
Standing 174cm and weighing 76kg, Mitchell was overlooked for AFL selection earlier. The knockbacks drove him to focus on improving his game and developing his natural elite running and endurance.
“People thought I was too small or too slow or couldn’t kick,” he said.
“So, I’ve worked hard to get where I am. I don’t think there was any indication when I was younger because I was a bit light on.
“I’ve just worked hard and matured, and worked to play pretty good footy over the years.”
Mitchell flew to Adelaide within hours of being selected by the Power and trained with the squad the following morning, beginning life as a professional footballer.
“It’s something that I’m sure I can get used to,” Mitchell said.
“I love my footy. It’s great. It is a little bit of a shock having footy, footy, footy, but if you want to improve and be the best and be on an AFL list, it’s something that you’ve got to do and I’m loving every minute of it. It’s great.”
While playing part-time football with Claremont, Mitchell undertook a teaching degree and worked several casual jobs.
He came to Alberton just weeks after his dual premiership teammate Lewis Stevenson was traded to Port Adelaide from West Coast.
“He’s a good friend of mind,” Mitchell said of fellow 23-year-old Stevenson who has already played 10 AFL games with the Eagles.
“He’s one to watch out for this year; raking right boot and running off that half-back line. I’m excited that he’s here as well and I can share it with him.”
In addition to his West Australian connection, Mitchell is settling into life in Adelaide with the help of new housemate Brett Ebert.
“It’s been a bit of a spin-out to watch him on TV for so long and be living at his house and him being such a good bloke and such a good footballer,” he said of Ebert.
“Brett’s turned out to be an absolute legend and I just can’t believe how nice everyone at the club is.”
Mitchell is using Brett’s cousin Brad as a measuring stick at training, striving to emulate his acclaimed approach to preparation and – if the opportunity arises through an upgrade to the main list – to follow his example on-field.
“I’m probably more of an outside mid-fielder, a wingman, maybe a high half-forward,” Mitchell said.
“I’ve been trying to chase after Brad Ebert at training because he’s played a similar role to me – that hard-running outside wingman who tries to hit up forwards and help the backs out as well.”
Mitchell heads into his first AFL season determined to maintain his approach that delivered a stellar 2012, capped by the next step in his hard-fought journey to the elite level.
“It’s pinch yourself kind of stuff,” he said of the year he’s had.
“I was just hoping that I’d get my opportunity and Port Adelaide gave me that opportunity and I’m just working hard now to repay their faith.”