Hurley arrived in Perth to hook up with Fremantle (as another Lilywhite, Paddy Brophy did on West Coast Eagles territory) as he embarks on a steep learning curve ahead of pre-season training on November 17.
Hurley wants to emulate Kennelly by winning a Premiership although, as it stands, playing first-team ‘footy’ on a regular basis would place him in an elite group who have managed to do so coming from Ireland.
A Johnstownbridge clubmate of Daniel Flynn, who is currently with Port Adelaide, and Paul Cribbin, who spent two years with Collingwood before returning to Ireland, Hurley (22) is aware of the challenges
An underage star who made his senior championship debut against Dublin in 2011, Hurley considers his strengths to lie in his endurance and aerial skills, but concedes his kicking skills need to improve.
“I like to think I’m a good kicker, but I was out kicking with one of the Freo (Fremantle) boys and he was pinging them onto my chest and a few of mine were just going off track,” Hurley said. “I’ve got a lot of learning to do. It’s a dream come true to be here.”
He has been practising at home as he pursued an AFL dream that saw him attend a Draft Combine and go training with the Dockers first for three weeks last year.
Having failed to win a contract then, he knuckled down to improve his skills, although that didn’t always go down well back home.
“I remember one day I went for a kick before Gaelic training and the manager came and kicked it (the oval ball) into the hedge. He was only messing, but ... it wasn’t allowed on the pitch. I had to get it after training.”
Hurley says he has been in close touch with Kennelly during his journey to make it to the AFL and considers the former Sydney star’s historic feats an inspiration.
“I remember when I was a young lad, looking at Tadhg Kennelly dancing on top of the stage after winning the grand final. That was on the news at nine o’clock, so everyone in Ireland was watching that. If someone else could do something similar, it could give another boost to the sport.”