The sunny view is that he did not have far to go.
Delisted Hawthorn Hawk defender Kurt Heatherly is apparently going to try his hand at rugby union, according to reports in the Herald Sun.
The Melbourne Rebels are giving him a two-week trial and being a New Zealander, the option of playing union must have seemed more appealing than going to one of the several VFL clubs that were interested in his services.
This does not seem to be one of those spur-of-the-moment decisions, either. Rebels manager Nick Ryan told the Herald, “It’s probably been two months of discussions. He expressed interest in getting back to his roots, with him obviously being a Kiwi.The lineage in his blood made us attractive for him and we’re delighted to welcome any aspirational high performance athlete.”
Stereotypical images of Kiwi babies dressed in All Black nappies aside, Heatherly is going to be brought in slowly by the Rebels. He is seeking a spot on the development squad and the Rebels will seek to give him 20 games to prove his mettle and debut in Super Rugby in 2020.
Heatherly can hold up his experience as a pupil of Alastair Clarkson as evidence of his athletic bona fides and his endurance is without question, as Clarkson was a stickler for that aspect of athletic performance.
The plan is for the Rebels to use him as an outside back and he may find rugby more to his liking. He was taken with the 61st pick in the 2013 AFL rookie draft, but he was only able to get five games for Hawthorn, so the decision to switch codes, while not taken lightly, could be viewed as that of a superb athlete who wants to enjoy playing time over spectating time.
He might find cracking the Rebels top list challenging, as the club finished second in the Australian Conference in 2018, but their ninth finish overall would seem to offer encouragement to the young New Zealander.