When Andrew Swallow left WA to join North Melbourne at the end of 2005, his brother David was one of the better 13-year-old footballers going around, but "probably a little pudgy".

Nine years on, he's watched his brother grow into one of the most talented young players in the AFL.

Plenty of people are excited about David's form this year in what is looming as a breakout season for the East Fremantle junior, but Andrew says knowing his brother, 2014 is just the beginning.

"It's pretty exciting to hear other people talk about how well he's going," Andrew said.

"I hope he is one of the greats of the game and is able to go on and continue to play and reach the potential we know he has."

A highly-rated junior midfielder, David saw his stocks skyrocket after winning the Larke Medal as player of the under-18 championships as a bottom-aged player.

Gold Coast recruited him at the end of that season under special dispensation from the AFL and made him the official No.1 pick at the 2010 draft 12 months later.

In his 12 games so far this year the 21-year-old is averaging a career-high 24 disposals and has kicked 11 goals, helping the Suns push into the top eight and challenge for finals for the first time in their existence.

But while David's talent has never been questioned, there was a time last season when many wondered if he would ever go on to become the elite midfielder they expected.

Struggling with knee problems, David was pushed into the back line for most of 2013, prompting outsiders to question if his development had stalled.

Some saw it another way and his older brother Andrew, who still speaks with David at least once a week, said the lessons learnt in defence were part of the reason he had been able to take his game to another level.

"I know when we played the Gold Coast up there and we got belted, Dave played down back on Lindsay Thomas and Lindsay might have kicked a goal or two in the first quarter but after that he didn't touch it," Andrew said.

"He was doing some great jobs. He shut down Hayden Ballantyne and kept him really quiet. People saw that as a step back but I think it was probably a great development in his game.

"I always think his best role is where he is now, playing in the midfield, but his body didn't allow him in the second and third year to play there because he kept getting injured and getting little niggles.

"Now he's seemed to get that right and his footy has gone to the level we all thought and expected him to get to."

The two brothers are from a close family. Andrew played a key role in David's Auskick football when he was still living in WA.

He tried to teach his brother a bit, but at that level the idea was "just let him go for it".

"You've always got kids who are physically bigger and stronger at that age who dominate, but Dave wasn't necessarily bigger or stronger, he was just a smarter player than all the guys around him," Andrew said.

"Around 14 or 15 he started to grow a bit and develop physically and that's when his game went to the next level.

"But it probably wasn't until I'd been in Melbourne a couple of years and he was invited to come down to the under-15s and 16s and then suddenly other people were talking about him, it probably wasn't until then that I thought he actually might be a fair dinkum chance of playing."

Andrew said now David was living up to the pressure of being a No.1 draft pick and matching people's expectations, the next step of his football career loomed as the most exciting.

"He's got a lot more natural talent than I've got, he's got the work ethic, he's got a very level head, so he's got all the things there," Andrew said.

"And he's got the little master (Gary) Ablett around him, so he can learn a lot from him.

"He could be all that he wants to be and more."

The West Australian

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