After being overlooked year after year, Claremont forward Ian Richardson thought his dreams of playing in the AFL were dead.
But having received the call-up to this year's State draft combine, a career at the elite level has again become a possibility for the 25-year-old. Richardson became the oldest player to be invited to the combine when the list of medium forwards was announced this week.
At least one club is believed to be seriously considering the 2008 Simpson medallist, with a rookie spot his most likely chance.
A clash between the combine and a long-scheduled holiday meant he completed the necessary testing at UWA earlier this month. Richardson said after missing out in the past he would rather focus on the WAFL finals than consider questions over his future.
"I got a couple of letters during the year so I knew there was a little bit of interest, but it was a pleasant surprise to be nominated," he said.
"I've been in this same situation a couple of times and it hasn't worked out, so I'm not going to get my hopes up too much."
Richardson is one of 10 West Australians in the group of medium forwards invited to this year's combine. Resurgent Swan Districts forward Dayle Garlett and mooted first-round pick Blake Acres are two other notable names on the list.
Most will travel to Melbourne for the national combine immediately after the AFL grand final, with the rest attending the WA State combine on October 13.
Richardson has produced another sublime season for the Tigers, kicking 43 goals in a team which has lost only two of 19 games.
His tackling intensity and defensive efforts, considered to be a weakness in his game, have remained consistently high since receiving a rocket from then coach Simon McPhee in 2011.
Richardson had been considered a certainty to be drafted in 2008 after winning a best and fairest, Claremont's goal-kicking award and starring in the State game in his first season of senior football, but was ultimately overlooked.
He said the pain of that experience had taught him to focus on what he could control instead of getting lost in the hype.
"I won the Simpson Medal, had a pretty good year and everyone was expecting me to go, but it didn't work out," Richardson said.
"That was pretty disappointing. I've had a bit of interest since then that hasn't come through either, but I'm not too bothered about it now.
"To be honest, it's one of the last things on my mind. I'm just putting all my energy and focus into trying to bring a third premiership down to Claremont.
"If I'm playing well, which is obviously the aim, it will enhance my prospects."If I'm playing well, which is obviously the aim, it will enhance my prospects." *Ian Richardson *