WELCOME to The Standard's new series Now and Then where we'll speak to Hampden league exports about their first senior games and seasons. Next up is Koroit's Willem Drew who now plays for AFL club Port Adelaide.
WILLEM Drew turned 16 two weeks after becoming a Hampden league senior premiership player.
Koroit's hierarchy knew it had a special talent at its disposal when Drew, only 15, made his debut in round four, 2014.
He held his spot for the remainder of the season on his way to a grand final appearance.
He had three senior premierships - and a best-on-ground medal to his name - before he was drafted into the AFL system at 18.
"I was lucky enough to make the under 16 (GWV) Rebels squad and I missed the first three games of the year due to that," Drew told The Standard this week.
"I can remember coming back to Koroit, hoping to get a few under 18 games and play under 16 games as well.
"I suppose to play every game (in the seniors) from then on was really good for me and my development.
"You had blokes like Adam Dowie and Chris McLaren around the club who saw something in me and they really made me believe I was able to perform at that level."
Drew, now 21, remembers being "very nervous" going into his first game against South Warrnambool.
"I didn't have a lot of the ball, I was out on the wing just trying to get a kick," he said.
"I am really thankful to the Koroit footy club for giving me a chance to play senior footy at a young age.
"It has definitely helped me along my journey.
The 2014 grand final standouts for Drew.
"We had such a young team and in the semi-final Warrnambool beat us by 70 or 80 points," he said.
"We were going into the grand final as underdogs, Warrnambool were red-hot favourites, and I just remember how excited the whole group was.
"The senior players who played just took everyone along with them. It was a really special win."