Many onlookers were surprised to see Collingwood pick up Isaac Chugg in this month's rookie draft, but Craig Notman wasn't one of them.
One of the driving forces of the Tasmania Devils' junior program before AFL Tasmania's COVID-enforced downsizing, Notman oversaw Chugg's steady NAB League campaign in 2019 - 123 touches, 22 tackles and two goals from 10 games.
But it was a performance in January this year - lining up against Brisbane skipper Dayne Zorko - that convinced Launceston's new development coach that Chugg could make it at the top level.
The 18-year-old, who has since moved to Melbourne to begin pre-season training with the Magpies, said teammates had helped him bring his best against one of the AFL's best midfielders.
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"Brisbane had a training camp down in Hobart and I was lucky enough to be able to join them for a couple of days and play in a practice match," Chugg said.
"I ended up playing on Dayne Zorko which was pretty nerve-racking, but a few of the boys got around me and it was really good.
"Training with them, it was such a big difference to the Devils program.
"Playing with them was pretty scary but the support from them was really good and really calming."
If that day began Chugg's draft season on a high, there would be a twist in the tale before realising his AFL dream.
Named for Launceston's season opener at Glenorchy, the ex-Longford junior spent five games in the development league before winning a recall to the senior side.
He turned heads in September's national combine testing, became a TSL premiership player in October and impressed several clubs in interviews before being selected with the rookie draft's 28th pick.
"If I was to get picked up, I would have said Collingwood were the most interested," he said.
"I'd spoken to them a couple of times so it was pretty cool [to end up there]."
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