Already thrilled to realise his AFL dream, new Fremantle draftee Luke Valente can’t wait to reunite with one of his best friends Stefan Giro at his new club.
The inside midfielder was selected with pick no.32 on Friday at the NAB AFL National Draft, with his consistency and leadership qualities from his time with the SA state team and at SANFL club Norwood a clear attraction to Fremantle.
Valente said he trained during the off-season with Giro with the aim of being ready to join an AFL list.
“He’s one of my best mates,” Valente said.
“I’ve done a lot of training with him over the years and in the off-season. He’s been someone that I’ve been able to look up to over the past couple of years as well.
“We’ve had some good chats about Freo, he really loves the lifestyle and the club over there so I can’t wait to talk to him as well. He’ll be stoked."
Predicted to go in the opening round of the draft, Valente was invited to Thursday night’s broadcast at Marvel Stadium but had to wait until Friday morning for his name to be read out.
Valente remained in Melbourne and watched the draft from Marvel Stadium with his family.
“The initial feeling was lots of relief and I’m really excited,” Valente said.
"I was watching the draft with my parents and younger sister. It was good to share it with them and they’re all pretty keen and excited as well.
“I had to wait (another day) but I’m so grateful to the club for giving me this opportunity so, hopefully, I can repay them.
Valente played a starring role in South Australia's win at the 2018 NAB AFL U18 Championships.
He captained the team, won the SA MVP and was announced as vice captain of the All Australian team.
The 18-year-old led the competition for clearances, ranked second for kicking efficiency from all midfielders and rated elite for score assists and score involvements.
“The U18 champs was an unbelievable experience,” Valente said.
“Obviously, we were pretty successful and had a really strong team and some really talented players in the team as well. It was an unforgettable experience and I have some memories I’ll have forever.
“I feel I learnt about what’s required and the work that goes in. There are lots of talented players in the country, so I knew I was going to have to work harder than everyone else to earn my spot.”
Valente said one of his strengths was his ability to kick on both sides of the body and he plans to work hard on his fitness at pre-season training.
“I’d say I’m mainly an inside mid and a good ball user that’s able to use both sides of my body with clean hands and a good decision maker,” Valente said.
“At training, I’ll be working hard on my endurance.
“That’s something that’s been a goal of mine as something to improve on and that’s what I’ll be hoping to improve in the off-season.
“Hopefully, playing as an inside mid, that’s something that’s pretty important to that sort of game.”