Josh Corbett admits he still pinches himself when he reflects on where he was, and where he is now.
From running around Bushfield Recreation Reserve as a youngster to pulling on the Gold Coast Suns jumper on the MCG, it's been a journey of resilience and belief so far and one he doesn't take for granted.
"I've always loved Warrnambool, it's always been an important part of my life," he told The Standard.
"I was lucky enough to come at Christmas - my fiance and I drove down and we just spent the Christmas period here for two and a half weeks which was nice.
"I did some running at North Warrnambool, it was honestly surreal going from Bushfield, and the different sort of ovals you play at. I was lucky enough to play at the MCG, and it was surreal.
"But at the end of the day, they're all the same ovals, all have goal posts and you still play the same game, but it's amazing that's where my journey began.
"I still pinch myself, I still remember being that young boy running around and having my family and friends support me, and that doesn't change.
"I'd love to get back to Warrnambool more, and hopefully over the next few years with the borders opening I can do it a lot more."
But now entering his fourth season at AFL level, Corbett is coming into the peak of his powers as a footballer.
Three seasons of AFL football so far have provided terrific learning opportunities in what it takes at the highest level and with an ingrained resilience the sky's the limit.
The 25-year-old North Warrnambool Eagles' export enters his fourth season at the Suns this year, desperate to carry over the momentum from last season in what looms as a crunch campaign.
The mobile forward enjoyed his most prolific season at AFL level in 2021, playing 16 games, kicking 23 goals and providing a terrific focal point for Stuart Dew's side in the attacking half.
His round six match against Collingwood was particularly eye-catching, with the athletic forward kicking four goals, reeling in 11 marks and receiving his first Brownlow Medal votes.
Corbett said nothing was a given this season and expected fierce competition for spots.
"It's going to be nice and competitive from a selection perspective and that's what you want as a club. With the selection troubles, everyone becomes stronger," he said.
"I understand that I've got to bring my best football to get selected, which is fine, I know that my spot's never been guaranteed, and it makes me hungry to work harder and become better to make sure I can stay in there week in, week out.
"I'm excited, we've got Brisbane in a practice match in a couple of weeks' time, and then Geelong after that, so it gives me some opportunity to put my best foot forward."
He said last year was a terrific chance for him to build on his game and find the belief that he belonged at the level.
"It was that consistency of playing each week, and the last few years have been pretty interrupted with COVID, but I felt last year when I was in the side I was able to put my best foot forward," he said.
"That's the pleasing thing to know I can do it at this level, and it's always good to have boys around you like Ben King and Sam Day to help you continue developing your game.
"I've gone away and worked on my fitness base, my running ability is the big strength of mine, and so I'm building on my strengths and looking to work on the things I need to improve on.
"I feel like I'm ready to improve again and hopefully we can build on what was a pretty consistent 2021."
Corbett said one of his main focuses this season was all about belief and trusting his own ability.
"It's about believing in myself, when you first come into the system you see all these big names who you watched on TV and they've got a strong reputation and then you've got to play on them," he said.
"It's probably taken me a few years to understand that I do have the tools and the ability to play some good football against them.
"Liam Jones, and people like that - I was a Carlton supporter when I was younger so I know his game well - so it was surreal going against them early in my career, and now going into my fourth year I see them as opposition, and I'm not as starstruck.
"I want to play round one and I want to play every game this year."
After bypassing the traditional under 18 system and coming through Werribee in the VFL before signing at the Suns, Corbett said it'd given him a perspective on the game and life that will hold him in good stead moving forward, especially during COVID times.
"If we look at the last couple of years especially, there's been so many uncontrollables, like when you're playing, or if you're able to even go to work," he said.
"From a life perspective it's kept it simple for me and I'm trying to be as present as possible. I'm lucky I've got a wonderful support system around me with my fiancé Mikayla up here with me, and a lot of good friends who I grew up with in Warrnambool.
"I feel grounded, so it allows me to be me, and they know me as a person, not a footballer, and it makes me feel supported to perform on game day."
With Corbett now steadily preparing for a big season of AFL football, he hoped in the future he could get down to Warrnambool more often and even play a game of football at the redeveloped Reid Oval.
"I hope they play the Community Series down there and the Suns are lucky enough to play there, I'd love to go and play down on the Reid," he said.
"I was walking the dog up there a few times, and I was looking around going, 'holy hell, the grass looks phenomenal', it's going to be a bloody good stadium.
"It'd be so good for the Warrnambool community to get a community game there, it'd be fantastic."
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