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How Naughton hit the ground running

2018 Season Review | Aaron Naughton BulldogsTV spoke with Aaron Naughton to look back at his 2018 season.

It was a whirlwind 48 hours for Aaron Naughton last November.

Just six days shy of his 18th birthday, Naughton was drafted by the Western Bulldogs at pick nine.

He returned to Perth and two days later was on a plane to start pre-season and a new life in Melbourne.

“It was definitely a huge move.  Getting my named called out (on draft night) and a couple of days later you’re living in Melbourne,” Naughton told westernbulldogs.com.au.

“The Club was really good, putting me up with Mitch Wallis for the first month before Christmas.  I shadowed him around the club and then from there moved in with my host family.

“I get along really well with them (and) I’ll be back once a week for family dinner nights.  They’ve been really good helping me settle in to Melbourne.”

The defender made an immediate impact at VU Whitten Oval, making his debut in the opening round of the season.  He played 18 games – missing four matches due to injury – and earned an AFL Rising Star nomination in Round 23.

“It’s been a lot of hard work and I’ve been lucky enough to play a few games,” he said.

“Backing up each week with the training expectations, training loads, (and) to be able to do it week in and week out as a first-year player when your body is probably not up to it as much, has probably been my biggest challenge.

“Throughout the season we’re probably not training as much or doing as much as the main group so on the weekend we’re still feeling alright and able to play.

“They’ve (strength and conditioning staff) been really good in allowing me to play so many games by managing me really well.”

In his draft year, Naughton was able to gain senior experience with Peel Thunder (Fremantle’s affiliate club in the WAFL), holding him in good stead for a smooth transition.

“Playing seven league games at the back end of my draft year really helped me transition into AFL footy,” he said.

“The exposure to be playing against Fremantle and West Coast listed players and those senior bodies that the AFL have (was invaluable).”

Naughton played on some of the game’s best key forwards this year, spending time on Lance Franklin, Jack Riewoldt, Ben Brown and Jeremy Cameron.

A brief stint up forward in his return from injury reaped reward for the Dogs in Round 14.  Naughton kicked two goals against North Melbourne, proving his versatility and highlighting his contested marking ability.

“Bevo strives for everyone to be able to play not just play one position, but to be able to play multiple positions for the team,” he said.

“To have that little bit of exposure up forward was really good for my development. I hadn’t played a lot up forward in my junior career but it’s definitely something I’ll look to develop in further years.”

Naughton said although this season had its challenges, 2019 presents an opportunity to write a new chapter in the Bulldogs’ story.

“We’re one of the youngest groups in the AFL and we’ve shown in glimpses that we are capable of bringing it to the best teams and beating them.

“The last month of the season was really positive, and that will definitely drive the standards coming into pre-season next year.”