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He was compared to Adelaide's Brett "The Birdman" Burton before he had played an AFL game. His teammates went one better and nicknamed him Avatar because of his long limbs and sure hands.

He denies that he has abnormally big hands but he can juggle three footballs and last weekend played on and beat Sydney's 2006 All- Australian Ryan O'Keefe, a man renowned for having one of the biggest tanks in the game.

All of these things combined with an understated football past and a round nine Rising Star nomination make Fremantle's Nat Fyfe one of the more interesting stories of the season.

Three years ago Fyfe had to play some second 18s at Aquinas before breaking into the firsts. Two years ago he combined school football with mainly reserves at home in Lake Grace.

Last year, as his nickname might suggest, he came from the clouds to become a star with Claremont's premiership colts, a valued member of WA's victorious national 18s team and an unheralded second-round draft pick for Fremantle.

If you ran the draft now, Fyfe might find himself even higher up the list. The 18-year-old has played in Fremantle's last five games, kicked four goals and while his first four matches all showed promise, the 23 touches on O'Keefe made him a popular choice as the latest Rising Star.

His response to the gong was as understated as his football history before last year.

"I am just happy to be playing good footy in the league side and it is just another little achievement - hopefully I just take it in my stride," he said.

If anything, Fyfe's laid-back country boy nature has helped him take the AFL environment in his stride, so far at least.

Even reserves football at Lake Grace played its part. The bodies around him might have been slower than the ones he faces these days but they were still man-sized.

"Because I was travelling back from boarding school and playing for Aquinas at the time it was hard to play seniors a lot so it was mainly reserves footy," he said.

"You become more alert and maybe more aware in traffic; especially if you start achieving in country footy you tend to get targeted a little bit. I still think that has helped make me into the player I am today."

He said he had just "tagged along" with O'Keefe and hoped to benefit by running the same patterns and having to cope with the Swan's well known work rate.

"It was funny we ended up on each other really. There wasn't really any plan there," Fyfe said.

"I enjoyed playing on such a quality player as him and hopefully I can learn a lot from the experience of how he plays.

"You pinch yourself every now and then but you don't really have time to reflect on that sort of stuff. Each week is a new challenge."

Claremont league coach Simon McPhee, who was in charge of the colts when Fyfe first joined, had expected to have him playing for the Tigers for most of the year but a willingness to learn, a smart football brain and talent had acceler-ated his development.

"The first thing that gets you is he is just a good kid who works hard and listens," McPhee said.

"He is a good mark and I think Mark Harvey said it about him the other day - he has got a good head on his shoulders. We thought he might have played senior WAFL footy this year and depending on how Freo were going he might have got an AFL game, but he has forced his way into a good side."