Ben Ralph is coming of age in an improving Thurgoona side.
The 18-year-old has been a standout performer in recent weeks as the Bulldogs have kept themselves in the mix to play finals.
In his second full season of senior football, Ralph is proving he belongs.
"Ben's last month has been massive for us," Thurgoona coach Dan Cleary said.
"He's really been impressive, made a bit of a move down back and slotted in really well.
"He's become really calm with the footy, he's super explosive and he's able to break games apart with his speed.
"He's started to read the game really well in the back line.
"He's able to take it on when he needs to but lock down if he has to as well, so it's been a real maturing role for him.
"It was his time to make that next step.
"He's played junior footy at the club and been around for quite a few years.
"He played most of last year in senior footy so he's at that 20-odd game mark where it all hopefully starts to click and it looks like it's done that for him."
Ralph's been with the Bulldogs since under-14s and is loving life in the top grade.
"I feel a lot more comfortable this year," Ralph said.
"Knowing all the boys makes it a lot easier to play with them.
"It makes a big difference knowing what everybody's capable of.
"I've been playing off the back flank the last couple of weeks as a small defender and running up the ground.
ALSO IN SPORT:
"I was a small forward earlier in the year, feeding off our full-forwards.
"I'm enjoying that change a lot. It's a lot different but it's more enjoyable as well.
"They want me to push up the ground but also, being able to get back is a massive thing, two-way running and just bringing that pressure in the backline all the time."
Thurgoona, seventh in the Tallangatta league but level on points with the two sides above them, host fourth-placed Beechworth on Saturday afternoon.
"In regard to our ladder position, it's super important but it's more important we start trying to get things right so we do challenge these good sides and actually get a gauge of where we're up to," Cleary said.
"If it's not playing finals this year or we get ourselves close, at least we know we're going in the right direction and can build on that.
"We've played some good sides and been able to challenge them at times, we've just not been able to put it together for long enough.
"The playing group is still brand new, with the amount of players we've turned over in the last two or three years so it's about trying to get that group connected."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: