BEN Paton didn’t have to be asked twice to accept the Murray Bushrangers’ offer to play as a 19-year-old this year.
After a strong 2016, the talented all-round sportsman thought the TAC Cup was his best shot at making it to the big-time.
“Straight after the draft last year Leon (Higgins) gave me a call about it,” Paton said.
“It seemed like a good opportunity rather than trying the VFL.
“I spoke to Lachie Tiziani who did the same thing and he just said have a real crack and make it your year.”
With those words of advice ringing in his ears, Paton has done just that.
An early-season call to switch Paton from the midfield to defence proved a masterstroke by the Bushrangers with the former Mitta United best and fairest winner grabbing All-Australian honours in July.
Most AFL clubs have since touched base with the North Albury player likely to be selected in the second or third round in Friday night’s draft in Sydney.
“I’m pretty nervous at the moment but at the same time excited,” he said.
“You never know what will happen.
“You see all the stuff in the media and think about it a fair bit.
“I’ve been happy with my year, but you never know.”
Despite Higgins liking what he saw of Paton playing in the midfield in 2016, he was keen to see him play in defence with his speed, skill and strong marking the hallmarks of his game.
“He played on all the good small forwards in the TAC this year and was rarely beaten,” Higgins said.
“He’s given himself a great opportunity with his work ethic.
“Ben played two VFL games and looked good at that level too.”
The Richmond supporter admits it will be a different feeling watching the draft with his family on Friday night compared to 12 months ago.
“I was watching last year mainly to see how all the other Bushrangers went, but I didn’t expect too much for myself because I hadn’t really spoken to any clubs,” he said.
“It’s a bit different this year so I’ll be more nervous.”