FOUR years ago, Western Bulldogs rookie James Mulligan was playing rugby in Queensland and didn't even know the names of the 16 teams that make up the AFL.
Today, he will be gearing up for his first real taste of senior Australian football after coach Rodney Eade hinted that he was a likely starter in the team to play Melbourne in a NAB Challenge match in Bendigo.
"I found out on Wednesday through a text message that I was in the squad and I was pretty surprised," Mulligan told westernbulldogs.com.au.
"Rocket (Eade) just told me that I am likely to play so I've just got to get out on the track now and have a good game. I'm stoked and pretty surprised.
"It's hard being a rookie and it's also hard having not played the game as long as some of these other boys. But I just want to go out there and show them what I can do."
The 18-year-old decided to try his hand at Australian football after realising that his 199cm frame was better suited to the game.
"I'd had enough of rugby and I just wanted to play professional sport," Mulligan said. "So I chose something I was sort of made for because I'm pretty tall.
"My mates got me down to the track at one of the local footy clubs and I had a go there and it all started from that.
"It hasn't been an easy transition," he said.
"The only reason I've got to where I am now is because I've done extra stuff outside of the club.
"I've been doing skill work every day with mates and doing weights and running. It was a bit of an investment but it seems to have paid off."
Despite having back and groin soreness over the pre-season, it has mostly been smooth sailing fitness-wise for Mulligan since arriving at Whitten Oval via selection No.4 overall in the 2007 NAB AFL Rookie Draft.
However, today he could hit his first hurdle if the club asks players to find their own way to Queen Elizabeth Oval in View Street, Bendigo.
"It's very exciting to possibly be playing and I'm pretty speechless right now," he said. "But, I don't even know where Bendigo is."
Joining Mulligan in the extended squad for this week's match is fellow new arrival Guy O'Keefe. The 18-year-old former Vic Country representative is also a chance to play tonight after impressing the coaching staff since being drafted with selection No.63 in last year's draft.
"It's good to be named in the squad," O'Keefe said. "It's been a huge pre-season, I don't think I've missed a session.
"I've only just found out but it's pretty exciting. I've kept it under wraps for now and I'll see how I go with making the side."