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Shane Nelson’s kicking caught attention at the AFL draft combine
Scott Barbour/Getty Images Shane Nelson’s kicking caught attention at the AFL draft combine

Shane Nelson was supposed to be enjoying the time of his life. He'd just returned from Melbourne after attending the AFL draft combine and had six weeks to wait until hopefully becoming an AFL player.

But two days later came the most harrowing day he could have imagined.

One of the teenager's best friends, who he played in a junior football premiership with, died in a motorbike accident, sending his world into a tailspin.

Making the situation even more difficult, the 18-year-old was also Nelson's sister's boyfriend.

"It's been a tough couple of weeks," Nelson said.

"It was tough on the family. He was around the house every day, so I saw him every day. To have him go was devastating.

"A lot of our team were really close mates. We were the best of mates who hung out on weekends. It was tough on all of us.

"It's always going to be there, but I'm starting to think more positively and remember the good times.

"My sister is doing all right. I'll still always be on the phone to my sister if I have to move so I can help her out."

Motorbikes have been a part of Nelson's life for as long as he can remember. His dad Murray won the 1983 125cc State motocross championship and was runner-up in 1984. That passion rubbed off on Shane.

Nelson turned down sponsorship opportunities as a youngster because he dreamt about playing AFL football, and sold his three motorbikes when State selection made that dream a possibility. A natural athlete, Nelson also displayed promise at baseball and cricket.

Blessed with speed and endurance, the West Perth midfielder has made the most of those strengths to become a ball magnet. He averaged 32 possessions during his nine colts games, including 43 in round seven.

Nelson also had 109 disposals from his five games at the under-18 national titles.

The 179cm on-baller, who has modelled his game on Carlton's Marc Murphy, fell sick before the AFL draft combine and lost 7kg, so wasn't allowed to take part in the endurance tests.

He'd been aiming to break through the elite-level 15 barrier which would have been even more impressive considering he finished equal third in the 20m sprint.

Nelson also produced the best result for the kicking test with 29 out of a possible 30 points. His focus on improving his non-dominant left foot from an early age paid off as he hit every target.

"Dad always said that you have to be able to kick well on both feet. I used to hate seeing kids run onto the left side and have to spin all the way around to kick," Nelson said.

"I didn't want to be doing that. It's so much easier to kick on your left because you don't get tackled.

"In the kicking test, I hit every single one on my left and they spun well. I shanked a few on the right but they still went straight."