PLAYER WATCH
Name: Kane Lambert
Age: 21
Club: Northern Blues (VFL)
Height: 178cm Weight: 78kg
Plays Like: Jobe Watson

While my fellow colleague, Jourdan Canil, has already put himself through torture to carefully construct his June ‘Phantom Draft’, there is one name that is surely down in the notebooks of many AFL recruiters.

In the age of 17-year-olds recruited to lists yet not exposed at the top flight and 25 being the new 18, it gives me great pleasure to introduce the Northern Blues’ ball-magnet Kane Lambert.

The term “break-out” season is not used lightly when describing the impact the 21-year-old has had on the VFL season to date.

Lambert’s story is one of familiarity. Rejected and ignored by all clubs at draft age in 2009 despite winning the Northern Knights’ best and fairest that year, Lambert took a year away from football to defuse his disappoint and revaluate what life held for him.

The year off in 2010 has held him in good stead with a promising start in 2011 ensured he held a regular gig among the Northern Blues’ seniors despite the influx of AFL-listed players hogging positions due to Carlton’s affiliation with the club.

Under then-coach Darren Harris, Lambert became the Blues’ lockdown specialist claiming the scalps of many AFL-listed players throughout the season, whilst averaging in the low 20s for disposals.

He would go on to finish second in the club best and fairest to teammate and childhood friend Adam Marcon, whom he shares a close association having played alongside him since the age of 10.

It is Marcon who Lambert credits for a lot of his great football in the last two seasons.

“Adam’s been awesome (for me). I like to think I’ve been pretty good for him too,” Lambert said.

“We’ve been great mates for such a long time and we’ve always been there getting each through if one or other of us is down with injury or something else.

“Probably the healthiest aspect of it is that we’re both really competitive on the field with opposition, but also with each other in training.”

Not big in stature standing underneath six foot, Lambert has gone about torching his opponents in season 2013 averaging 29.5 disposals, 6.8 clearances and 5.6 tackles per match.

The ‘plays like’ comparison to Jobe Watson isn’t to say that he is younger carbon copy of the reigning Brownlow medallist, yet his work rate and output so far this year is reminiscent similarities.

As his club’s leading possession-getter, Lambert has also developed from his release from primarily a lockdown midfielder, balancing his share of inside and outside football (he ranks 1st in the competition for contested possessions) and getting forward to kick goals (14 so far this season).

Whilst those numbers are impressive even after nine games, it has been Lambert’s recent form that has had members of the AFL’s inner circles raving about him.

Selected for Victoria in the VFL vs WAFL State Game in Northam, Western Australia, last month, Lambert was one of the Big V’s best, amassing 21 possessions, eight marks, four tackles and a goal.

The performance came off the back of being selected as the first emergency for Victoria the previous year, something Lambert was keen to rectify.

“Last year was a little frustrating to be the 23rd man, but I guess it also gave me the opportunity to soak up the experience of being around guys who I’m usually lining up against,” Lambert said.

“(This year) gave me the opportunity to see how experienced guys like (Port Melbourne’s) Shane Valenti and (John) Baird go about their preparation.”

And it is not as if outstanding performances in the State games – particularly against the WAFL – go unnoticed by AFL recruiters with 12 players including Brett Goodes, Sam Dwyer and Ed Curnow ending up drafted off the back of solid outings.

Outside a quieter 19-disposal performance on the weekend against Geelong – where he was tagged for the first time in his career – Lambert’s disposal numbers of 31, 32, 36 and 30 in the last four weeks indicate since the State Match prove the experience was more than beneficial.

Lambert nonetheless credits hard work as the key for his 2013 success.

“I think having a full pre-season, my first since being at the club, has held in me in good stead,” Lambert said.

“(I am) enjoying the freedom and the change in role, not always having to lock down on someone. It’s still something I’m getting used to.”

Lambert previously highlighted former Carlton-listed player, now Collingwood defender, Jordan Russell as a mentor during Russell’s stint at the Northern Blues.

Nowadays, he takes heart in watching the rise of former Northern Blues goal-sneak, now St Kilda forward, Ahmad Saad as an inspiration of getting drafted to an AFL club.

In the meantime, here’s to hoping that the trend success stories of mature-age recruits is on Lambert’s side come November.