Claremont tyro Brenden Abbott says achieving a settled lifestyle outside of football has been more important to him than achieving his AFL dream.
The 19-year-old was touted as a draft prospect last year based on his explosive speed, strength and vertical leap, having recorded a rare 2.87 second time in the 20m sprint at the 2013 State combine to showcase his athletic ability.
But his decision to leave the national under-18s championships early to return home to Albany for personal reasons and question marks over his stamina and off-field habits led to the powerfully built footballer being overlooked on draft day.
Abbott returned to Perth over the off-season and, with the help of Claremont officials including football manager Dean Hors- ington, secured a full-time train-eeship in January with the Fire and Emergency Services Authority.
That stability has gradually translated into improving form on the field, with the teenager producing his best game of the season last Saturday against Swan Districts at the Claremont Showground.
Abbott booted a career-high 5.4 playing as the team's full- forward. His performance was all the more impressive given his direct opponent was WA full-back and Swans captain Tallan Ames.
The draft hopeful said he felt his life was coming together off the field, which he described as his main goal for 2014.
"I wanted to just have a consistent lifestyle, to come up and really just work, live, be healthy and enjoy my footy," Abbott said.
"That was my goal coming in. Whether or not I played good or not wasn't really on my to-do list, but so be it.
"I think it (getting drafted) is in a way a stepping stone for me to just gradually become a better person, a better role model."
Abbott said he left the State program last year mainly to care for his ill mother and help with issues linked to his family.
"I was very disappointed knowing the chance I could have had, but on the flipside I'm here, I'm on track, the clock's gone around and I feel excited and happy with where I'm going," Abbott said.
"I look back and I see the disappointment that was there. I could've, should've, but now is the time to just really look forward rather than looking back."
Abbott has played every game since round nine and now has 15 goals in his first WAFL league season.
It is believed he is on West Coast's radar, with the Eagles in the market for strong, fast midfielders who are also versatile.
Abbott was switched into the forward line this season after playing much of his junior football as a half-back flanker. He said he had set his sights on finishing the year strongly, starting with tomorrow's clash against East Fremantle at the Showground.
"I've always played half-back, but you've got to be able to play everywhere nowadays," Abbott said. "It's a good learning curve."