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1489 draftees later...

Clarko searches to share the good news Watch as Alastair Clarkson searches for Box Hill captain David Mirra who was selected by the Hawks in the Rookie Draft.
David Mirra poses for a portrait at the 2011 NAB AFL Draft Combine at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne.
Mirra at the 2011 National Draft Combine.

Since David Mirra first nominated for an AFL draft, 1,489 people have been selected by a club.  

Not that he's counting. Well, actually Hawthorn's new rookie has been counting because it's been a long, long ride.

Mirra was officially named Box Hill captain in 2014, and was stand-in skipper for Box Hill's 2013 flag team as well.

There has been plenty of disappointment along the way for Mirra, so he focused on other areas of his life, completing a double degree at Deakin University – a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science/Bachelor of Commerce (Sport Management) – and working at a sporting retailer for the last two years in a sales and marketing role.  

But the 26-year-old's world was tipped on its head last Monday, when he was selected at No.23 in the NAB AFL Rookie Draft. And Mirra knew just how many people had been picked up since he first made himself draft eligible in 2009.  

"Funny story behind that one ... A mate of mine, Kane Lambert, who's at Richmond and came third in the best and fairest, I watched his best-and-fairest speech and he read out the number of picks it took for Richmond to finally select him, so I thought, 'Gee, if I ever get the chance, I want to count how many picks it's taken me to finally get on an AFL list'," Mirra said.  

"I think it was around 1,489 picks." Then, tongue planted in cheek: "Roughly ... off the top of my head."   

Mirra used to line up on a wing when he was at the Eastern Ranges in the TAC Cup, but that wasn't his strong suit. He ran a poor beep test at the Combine and dissuaded potential suitors.  

In 2010 he joined Box Hill and played under now Carlton coach Brendon Bolton. Mirra spent most of that year in the now-defunct development league but worked his way into the senior team and established himself as a VFL star, making the VFL Team of the Year four times.  

Mirra almost gave away his dream of ever making it at AFL level. Then, Hawthorn recruiting manager Graham Wright called.  

"It's been a great journey, but all the while still, there's been disappointment and heartbreak in missing out on the draft. I'd set myself to play AFL footy and when that didn't happen year on year, and the fact that I was getting older, I probably thought to myself that this was it," Mirra said.  

"My career outside of footy was progressing and I had other things going on in my life, so I'd kind of shut the door on playing AFL.

"Then, (Hawthorn recruiter) Graham Wright called me two weeks before the AFL draft, it was a pretty surreal feeling.   
"I actually laughed on the phone, because I thought he was actually calling me to speak about one of the other players at Box Hill, like a Sam Switkowski, who went to Freo, or Chris Jones or Anthony Brolic, one of these other guys who were in contention."  

Hawthorn is off to New Zealand for a training camp next Monday, which caught Mirra unprepared.  

"You never get any guarantees or promises about being drafted and I knew that the Hawks were going on a camp to New Zealand, but I've been through it before and I've had disappointment before, so I didn't want to go out and get (a passport) for that," Mirra said.  

"I just kind of left it and waited until they picked me up, and they did.  

"Pretty much 10 minutes after they picked me up, Clarko goes, 'Have you got your passport?', and I said, 'What are you talking about?'. He goes, 'We're off to New Zealand on Monday' ...  

"The club's been really good and they've pulled some strings."  

Now that he is here, Mirra is not content with letting his opportunity pass by.  

"The hardest challenge for me now, whilst I'm in the AFL system, is to really make a go of it," Mirra said.  

"You look at a guy like (Adelaide midfielder) Sam Gibson, who was my captain when I was at Box Hill … he ended up playing 130 games in a row, so I really want to just go out and get my first AFL game and give it a red-hot crack, and hopefully I'm there for the next four or five years."

Read: Mirra finds his AFL home

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs