KOROIT premiership footballer Josh Chatfield has overcome a serious kidney injury to earn a VFL pre-season training opportunity.
Footscray invited Chatfield, 21, to trial for a spot on its 2022 list after his impressive performances for North Ballarat.
The forward, who is a third-year civil construction apprentice, said his work-life balance meant it was the ideal time to test himself at a higher level.
"It was something I'd been meaning to do the last few years but the timing wasn't too great," he told The Standard. "Now work is a bit more stable and life is a bit easier. It was good to mature too."
Chatfield, who is based in Ballarat, travels to Whitten Oval twice a week for training. He's been impressed with the professionalism.
"From the get-go it's been awesome," Chatfield said.
"They can be quite long nights but hopefully it's worth it in the end.
"The experience of a pre-season, meeting the coaches and seeing how professional the environment is, it's a bit of an eye-opener to the next level."
Footscray is aligned with AFL club Western Bulldogs which has lost two forwards for a significant part of next season.
"There's a few spots that have opened up as a forward at Footscray with Josh Bruce and Toby McLean both having ACL injuries unfortunately," Chatfield said.
"But it opens up two spots (in the AFL team and subsequently the VFL team) and they didn't select any small creative type forwards in the draft. Speaking to the people at Footscray, it has worked in my favour but there's a lot of work to do."
The VFL training chance comes after Chatfield, who played in Koroit's 2018 flag as a teenager, overcame serious injury.
He lacerated a kidney during a Ballarat league match earlier this year.
"I went to hip-and-shoulder someone and as I've done that they've jumped to handball over me and I have turned and opened up the back of my ribs," Chatfield said.
"It split my kidney open in the first quarter. It was painful but I didn't expect it to be that significant so I played out the game."
Chatfield had six weeks off work and expected to miss the rest of the season.
"It was a challenging time," he said. "I was pretty determined to get back and play so I did all the right things and went to more sport-specific doctors and got the all-clear to play.
"My first game back would've been the first game of the final series but the season didn't go ahead (because of COVID-19 restrictions)."
North Ballarat finished atop the ladder. Chatfield, who will use it as his feeder club if he makes the VFL, said they had unfinished business.
"(Coach) Brendan McCartney has a lot to do with where I am now and the year I had personally and the team as well," he said.
"We didn't have any more recruits and went from finishing seventh or eighth a couple of years ago to finishing on top. It shows what kind of coach and character he is."
There are numerous Hampden league exports training with VFL clubs, including South Warrnambool pair Fraser Marris (Geelong) and Archie Stevens (South Warrnambool).
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