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Former Cheltenham JFC star Mitch Brown was given an AFL lifeline on Tuesday night after Essendon selected him with pick 54 in the NAB AFL Draft.

The 25-year-old attracted plenty of attention from AFL clubs following his stunning 2015 season with Sandringham in the VFL, dominating in both key forward and defensive roles.

He also represented the Bombers in three matches as a top-up player during this year’s NAB Challenge following the withdrawal of a number of Dons stars at the height of their protracted supplements saga.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH HIGHLIGHTS FROM MITCH BROWN’S OUTSTANDING 2015 SEASON.

Brown is the second former SMJFL player to be picked up in this year’s draft, with Harley Balic taken by Fremantle with pick 38.

Brown played over 120 games of then MSJFL footy with Cheltenham Panthers from 2000 to 2007. He was eligible to play in the club’s Under 9s team in 1999, however, he instead spent an extra year in Auskick honing his skills

This was a decision that not only payed handsome dividends for Brown – he was one of the most skilful players throughout his junior years – but it also serves as a terrific advertisement for the AFL Auskick program.

He played most of his junior footy as a medium-sized onballer before a growth spurt during his Under 17 year saw him switch to key forward roles. And he took to it like a duck to water, finishing 2007 as one of the competition’s leading goalkickers.

Standout performances with his school team, Mentone Grammar, and the Sandringham Dragons the following year ensured AFL clubs took notice of him. And it was Geelong that pounced on him first, selecting him with their first pick (15th overall) in the 2008 AFL Draft.

A promising AFL career beckoned, however, Brown became the poster boy for hard luck stories. A broken leg suffered in a VFL practice match saw him sit out the entire 2009 season, and a subsequent string of serious shoulder injuries saw him restricted to just 15 matches in his six years at Simmonds Stadium.

He was delisted by the Cats after the 2014 season.

Finally injury free and with his body back in top shape, Brown showed us all what he is capable of with his performances at Sandringham this season.

It is a sign of Brown’s strength and determination that he is now able to return to AFL ranks after all of his horrific setbacks, and his resurrection as an elite footballer sends a strong message that anyone can achieve their goals if they continue to persevere through their most difficult challenges.

Given the recent departures of key talls Dustin Fletcher (retired) and Jake Carlisle (traded), the versatile Brown could slot seamlessly into Essendon’s line up. And if he can stay fully fit, he could prove to been a vital asset to the Bombers in 2016.

By Will Hunter