Shane Nelson has an ideal chance to show he deserves to be drafted into the AFL when he makes his WA debut against a NEAFL representative side in Sydney tomorrow.
The 21-year-old West Perth midfielder has been overlooked at the past three national drafts after being a State under-18 squad member.
He was picked in WA's 23-strong team on the back of his best WAFL season to date.
Nelson averages 28 disposals in eight games this year.
Such was his impact for the Falcons in the first half of this month's Foxtel Cup win over VFL heavyweights Box Hill that he was tagged after half-time.
Nelson said he was making inroads into his perceived weaknesses, admitting his foot skills and inability to kick goals had been the likely reason AFL clubs had passed on him.
"I seem to be able to take the game on sometimes and get out and have an easy shot on goal, but don't quite finish off," he said.
Recent history shows mature-aged WAFL midfielders remain a chance to get a shot at AFL level after outstanding seasons.
Clearance king Matt Priddis was 20 when drafted by West Coast after winning the Sandover Medal, and East Perth's Brendan Lee and Subiaco captain Kyal Horsley were also drafted as late bloomers.
Nelson said he had set himself for a big year, but that he was no longer pinning all his hopes on the AFL dream.
"I thought maybe after the first year or so that I could prove a point," he said.
"But now it's not necessarily about proving a point. It's about going out there and playing with my best mates and just enjoying my footy at the moment."
West Perth and State coach Bill Monaghan said he had seen significant improvement in Nelson in key areas, including inside-50s and the ground gained when in possession of the ball.
"He's got an uncanny ability to win the ball," Monaghan said.
"We've been working with Shane over a little bit of time to tidy up his disposal and get him to run in possession a little bit more and that's starting to turn and we think he's making strides in that area. Against Swans a couple of weeks ago, he had 20 kicks and 17 effective kicks."
Monaghan said Nelson had a new challenge as opposition teams chose to tag him more often. His height (176cm) had likely counted against him in recent AFL drafts where bigger-bodied midfielders were in vogue.
"You need everything else to be good to be able to work through that," he said.
"He's got good pace. I think he's in the top four or five of all time at draft camp for agility.
"There's things about him that people probably don't realise when they watch him play."
It's about … playing with my best mates … " *Shane Nelson *