The Brisbane Lions selected Kai Lohmann with the final pick of the first round of the 2021 AFL Draft. (Photo: Brisbane Lions)

First round pick Kai Lohmann is thrilled to be joining one of his childhood best mates at Brisbane after his 'surprise' selection last night.

The Brisbane Lions have made a point of looking to draftees from country Victoria in recent years.

They famously selected both Hugh McCluggage and Jarrod Berry out of Ballarat in the 2016 AFL Draft, and have looked to do so again in back-to-back years.

Exciting forward Kai Lohmann was taken with pick 20, the last of the first round, and a ‘surprise’ selection even to himself.

But it was no surprise to coach Chris Fagan and the Lions’ recruiting team, who seem to have once again done their due dilligence.

Another kid who came through the GWV Rebels system in the NAB League, and the third in 2021’s first round, Lohmann has already got one strong connection up north.

“Love to join one of my best mates that I’ve grown up with in Harry Sharp… think he’s pretty excited, and so am I,” Lohmann told The Inner Sanctum on Thursday morning.

“It is sort of a trend, I think it’s working for them as well. They’ve got a great Ballarat group there, so I think they’re going to help me when I get up there and vice-versa.”

Sharp was taken with the first pick of the third round in 2020, making his debut in Round 1 this year but only managing just one game further in a strong Lions outfit.

After the infamous ‘Go Home Five’ which saw players including Sam Docherty and Elliot Yeo depart the club in 2013, the new age of Lions recruiting already seems to be paying dividends.

Not a single player departed the Lions through trade or free agency in 2021, with only Stefan Martin, Alex Witherden and Mitch Hinge making a move elsewhere last year.

With the addition of Lohmann, Brisbane’s list now includes seven players drafted from regional Victoria.

Not only is he walking into an environment filled with familiar faces, but also one that’s been immediately welcoming to the newest kid on the block.

“Most of the [players] have [gotten in contact] already, which is amazing,” Lohmann said.

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Despite the Rebels link, the selection came as a surprise to most pundits in the first round.

The majority of draft experts had Lohmann rated as a late second to third round selection, not standing out amongst the other forwards in the group.

Brisbane had the likes of Josh Goater, Sam Butler, and Tyler Sonsie still to choose from, but the recruiting team stuck strongly to their guns.

“Lions were obviously pretty interested, but it was a bit of a surprise going that early,” Lohmann admitted.

The electrifying forward rose up draft boards late in the season as he continued to show off both his knack for finding the goals and ability to win the ball when pushing further up the ground.

He kicked three goals in his last two games for the Rebels while averaging 13.5 disposals, 4.5 marks, 3.5 tackles and four inside 50s.

In a game against the Gippsland Power, he was utilised further up the ground, finishing with 23 disposals, eight marks and five inside 50s.

Jumping and marking well above what 182cm would suggest at face value, he’s drawn comparisons to premiership Demon Bayley Fritsch for his strong leading and aerial game befitting a player half a head taller.

What he can add to the Lions that a player like Fritsch wouldn’t is in his versatility in the forward 50. If he’s not marking, Lohmann becomes an extra small forward at ground level.

He’s not the most prolific tackler and struggled to maintain a consistent output this season, but there’s more than enough talent and drive there for the Lions to work with.

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