Gold Coast recruit Kyal Horsley did not have to look further than one of his WAFL club's greatest success stories for inspiration.
The year Horsley left Kalgoorlie to join Subiaco was the year the Lions lost Matt Priddis to West Coast.
The left-footed inside midfielders were consistently overlooked in the national draft. They are Subiaco best-and-fairest winners. Both were rookie-listed by AFL clubs and they had 19 possessions in their debuts.
While Priddis won the Sandover Medal in 2006, Horsley finished second last year before being taken by the Suns as a ready-made player.
With his first senior game firmly under his belt, Horsley, known as Horse or Wombat to his new teammates, chooses not to relate his path to that blazed by Priddis, now one of the game's elite midfielders.
The 24-year-old has a deep admiration for the influential Eagle, but prefers to concentrate on more pressing issues, such as his second AFL game, against Fremantle at Metricon Stadium today.
"Pridda was a freak in the WAFL who would get the ball 40 times," Horsley said. "I never got to play with him because he got drafted the year I got down there and mine's a different story really. But the way the guys talk about him around the club, they've all got very strong opinions on him."
Like Priddis early in his career, Horsley had been tainted by thoughts that he lacked the speed and disposal efficiency to have an impact in the AFL. But also like Priddis, he kept bashing at the door by improving his game.
He was invited to train with Fremantle ahead of the 2008 season under then coach Mark Harvey, but had to wait until this year for his opportunity, via the Suns' rookie list.
Horsley said his hopes of joining an AFL club were increased by the extra playing opportunities presented by the competition's two new expansion teams.
"There were probably a few knocks because you can form opinions on people from watching them," he said. "But unless you give them a chance, you're never going to know whether the opinions are right or wrong.
"I assume people thought I was a bit slow and not a great kick.
"It probably just sort of happened for me in the end. During WAFL, I just wanted to play the best I could for Subi and get success for that club and I guess when you do that, it probably promotes good football.
"I never really thought I would do everything to try and get into the AFL, I just wanted to better myself for Subiaco. I grew up in a country town and it was more of a pipe-dream then and not really reality.
"But once I moved down to Perth and got the opportunity to train with Freo after my first year, it was an eye-opener for what I needed to do and I guess then it became more of a reality."
Horsley said his debut in last Saturday's loss to North Melbourne had passed quickly.
"I was pretty nervous and it's all a bit of a blur now, but it was good to get it out of the way," he said.
"To achieve it so early in the year was a big thing, so I was happy with that.
"The first one is always good, but at the end of the day, you play footy to have an AFL career and not just play the one game."
Pridda was a freak in the WAFL who would get the ball 40 times." *Kyal Horsley *