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Naughton’s confidence rising

The boys are back The 1-4 year players hit the track for their first 2019 pre-season training session.

A fourth-place finish in the Western Bulldogs' Best and Fairest has given first-year key defender Aaron Naughton the confidence he has what it takes to combat the AFL's star forwards. 

Assigned the daunting tasks of standing gun goalkickers Lance Franklin, Joe Daniher, Jack Darling and Jeremy Cameron in his debut season, Naughton didn't look out of place against the quality quartet, and his efforts were rewarded at last month's Charles Sutton Medal count, despite missing four games through injury.

When reflecting on such an admirable achievement, the 19-year-old says the coaching panel's acknowledgement gives him the belief he's capable of better things next season.

And it should come as no surprise he breezed through his exit meeting, with coach Luke Beveridge, backline coach Steven King and General Manager of Football Chris Maple all giving the West Australian a gold star for a season that saw him earn a NAB AFL Rising Star nomination.

"I guess I was a little bit surprised because I didn't know how the voting worked, and when I got (to the best and fairest on the night), they told me if you play most games you'll poll OK," Naughton told AFL.com.au.

"To finish fourth was a bit of a shock, but I suppose it was a reflection that (the coaches) rated my first season.

"My exit meeting was alright, but I didn’t know what to expect and how the procedure ran.

"They were really positive after I played a few games in my first year as a key defender, so they were happy and want me to continue learning and grow my game.

"They really instilled some confidence in me."

While he's one of the AFL's most impressive young intercepting key defenders, Naughton, under Beveridge's flexibility mantra, also got the opportunity to show he can also be a marking option up forward.

That versatility was evident when he took several contested marks and slotted two goals against North Melbourne in Round 9, but as he begins preparations for his second season at the highest level, Naughton is expecting to be standing alongside Franklin in the Dogs' 2019 season opener against Sydney at Marvel Stadium.

"I haven’t really had a conservation with 'Bevo' yet, but I'm pretty settled in defence," Naughton said.

"I'm always looking to improve my forward craft, and if I'm called to play down there I'm happy to, but I'm happy down back."