Albury's Fletcher Hart is eyeing the AFL Mid-Season Draft after hitting the ground running in this season's NAB League.
The 18-year-old's form with the Murray Bushrangers has earned him a place in the Young Guns side to face Vic Country under-18s at Ikon Park in Melbourne on Sunday.
Hart, who stands 200cm tall, is reaping the rewards of bulking up this season and can't wait to showcase his skills on the big stage after also turning out for the Young Guns last weekend.
"I'll try to play as well as I can in these Young Gun games and see what happens from there," Hart said.
"I'm aiming to get picked up in the Mid-Season Draft.
"Playing at the top level has always been a dream of mine and it's something I'm going to work really hard for.
"My focus in pre-season was trying to put on a bit of size and I've done that.
"I've put on something like eight kilos.
"With my footy, it's been about getting up the ground, getting the ball and wheeling and going.
"I feel a lot stronger in the contest and I feel a lot stronger all over the ground, it just feels a lot easier.
"Last year, I was getting thrown around by a couple of the big boys but I've got that under control now and it's vice versa.
"I've starting throwing them around for a change."
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Hart is joined in the Young Guns side by Wangaratta's Tyler Norton, Corowa-Rutherglen's Ryan Eyers and Wangaratta Rovers' Toby Murray, while Thomas Cappellari (Myrtleford), Darcy Wilson (Wangaratta Rovers) and Oliver Hollands (Wodonga) are playing for Vic Country.
Originally from Sydney, Hart spent three years with Holbrook before finishing his junior career at St Pats and then joining the Tigers.
Hart quickly impressed at the Sportsground and was picked up by the Bushies, although he's had to overcome substantial obstacles since then.
"COVID ruined that year so last year was my first real introduction to it but I only played three games before I broke my ankle playing against GWV Rebels," Hart explained.
"I worked hard on my rehab, trying to get back as fast as I could.
"I had surgery, which made the process a lot quicker and Bushies were really good with that, organising everything.
"What you put in is what you get out. I believe I put in all the work and I haven't had an issue with it since."
Hart feels he's taken huge strides thanks to the Bushies.
"They've got a fantastic program, arguably the best in the NAB League," he said.
"I'm going to leave a much better player than when I came in because you see the game a different way when they talk to you about it. I reckon (Bushies coach) Mark Brown has been the biggest influence on my career.
"I don't think I'd be where I am without the role he's played in my football.
"No matter what you do, he never just pats you on the back, he always keeps pushing and driving you to become the best player you can possibly be."
Young Guns v Vic Country starts at 1.30pm on Sunday.
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