DESPITE spending three years on Geelong's rookie list, George Burbury never gave up on his AFL dream or thought he was just making up the numbers.
It is this attitude that will play a big part in his recovery from the broken jaw he received in the NAB Challenge opener against Collingwood, which is likely to see him out of action for about six weeks.
The 21-year-old forward, who grew up in the Central Highlands and played football at Brighton, Sandy Bay and Hobart, was elevated to the senior list late last year.
Despite his status as one of the last men on the list, he never felt like he didn't belong.
"If I thought I wasn't good enough, I would have packed my bags and gone home," Burbury said before that fateful match against the Magpies.
"I'd moved interstate, packed up my life, with the goal of achieving this, so that thought never crossed my mind.
"I do understand it is the back door into the AFL, and it is a harder pathway than just being drafted normally. But that gives you an appreciation of what hard work is, and it makes you really respect the opportunity that you have been given, and I'm really grateful for that.
"Hopefully I'll look back in years to come after a successful AFL career and the earlier stages of being a rookie would have moulded me in to who I am as a player and a person."
The 186-centimetre and 80-kilogram Burbury played two games last year, with his hard-at- it approach in the forward line (where he averaged 4.5 tackles a game) noticeable, before he tore his quad.
"That's the role we value highly as a club, and that's what I've been working on the past couple of years, trying to bring that immense pressure onto the opposition's backline players and force them to make a turnover."
He said he'd like to be described as a "ruthless" player who is feared and respected by his opponent.
But don't start to believe he is aiming to be "the new Paul Chapman" (as has previously been incorrectly said in the media), as he has too much respect for his former teammate to start comparisons.
Burbury this week said he is aiming for a return by round 2, in the AFL or VFL, and was confident the injury, which has required four plates in his face, would not see him alter his playing style.
"I'd like to say no and that it will all be fine, but I think when you're out there playing AFL you don't have that much time to even think about the decision you make, you just have to make it and go with it and that's the hope that I will take in when I get back," he said on the club's website.
"I'll keep playing my natural game. My game style is the way the club wants me to play."
Burbury is highly rated by Cats coach Chris Scott who said after his injury: "He's a young man who has improved out of sight. Eighteen months ago he was the player who was furthest away from AFL football on our list and now going into this game he would have been very hard to push out of our best 22."
Geelong's next NAB Challenge game is against Melbourne in Alice Springs on Friday, and it will begin its home and away season against Adelaide at the same ground on Thursday, March 20.