New Fremantle rookie Jacob Ballard won't let hurdles stand in the way of him playing in the AFL, literally or figuratively.
The 19-year-old from Warrandyte in north-east Melbourne gave up hurdling - his pet event in an outstanding little athletics career - to give him more time to prepare for a football career.
And he wasn't about to let the disappointment of being overlooked in last year's draft stop him from making it.
Ballard, a 188cm, 90kg midfielder who played for Carlton's VFL affiliate the Northern Blues this year, came close to being on Fremantle's list in 2013 before the Dockers ran out of draft picks last year as he was coming to the top of their wish list.
He worked two jobs to save some money in preparation for a university course and continued to work hard at his football.
He was Fremantle's last pick in last week's rookie draft.
The Dockers are quietly confident they have a player made of the right stuff to ride the highs, lows and bumps of the AFL.
"We do a lot of testing, a lot of screening when they come in now and he has got very strong character and he will really flourish in this environment," Dockers development coach Simon Lloyd said yesterday.
Ballard admitted it had been hard to recover from the disappointment of not being selected in 2012.
"I guess everyone tells you not to get your hopes up and you try not to but deep down it is still your dream to get drafted," he said.
"As an 18-year-old I thought I was a pretty good chance. I was pretty shattered for a week or so but then you can't dwell on it.
"You have just got to knuckle down and give it another crack next year.
"Going through the pain of missing out gives me something deep down to pull on and to drive me to train a bit harder.
"Knowing how hard it is when you miss out I think will help me now that I am in the system."
Ballard ran to the point of vomiting in yesterday's 3km time trial at Tompkins Park as Fremantle's rookies came face to face with the club's senior players.
Fremantle's second rookie pick Tom Vandeleur, 18, found the introductions a bizarre experience.
"It is a bit weird when Matthew Pavlich comes up to you and says 'hello, my name is Matthew'," he said.
"Yeah, I know who you are. It is overwhelming. Five minutes later you are out running around a track chasing these people."
Like Ballard, Vandeleur is a youngster the Dockers won't have to worry about putting weight on.
The 194cm defender from Carnarvon, via South Fremantle, is already 92kg and is quick, running a 2.94sec. 20m sprint in pre-draft testing.
Putting weight on will be necessary for Michael Wood from Subiaco, who made a stunning graduation from colts to senior ranks in 2013.
After kicking 29 goals in 10 colts matches, Wood added 18 goals in 10 senior games playing as a third tall forward.
He finished 2012 as a skinny 190cm and 68kg. He is now 10kg heavier and the Dockers are hoping he may yet grow taller.
"It happens pretty quickly with some of these young boys," Lloyd said. "We might get a few more centimetres (growth) out of him as well."
Switching WAFL colours from Subiaco to Fremantle's partner club Peel should not be an issue for Wood, 19, whose father lives in Mandurah.
"It was great to stay back here in Perth with the family and friends and now playing for Peel as well having my dad down there," he said.
"I would like to think I am a hard-working player and that I use my mark and my kick to my advantage."
"It is a bit weird when Matthew Pavlich comes up to you and says 'hello, my name is Matthew'."" *Tom Vandeleur *