It was a reasonably big fortnight for Aaron Naughton.
He ripped the Tigers apart two weeks ago with a marking display rarely seen, particularly for someone so young.
Athletes sometimes refer to being ‘in the zone’. That sweet spot when circumstances, confidence and skill all align to allow an athlete to reach a level beyond that of his or her competitors. That was Aaron Naughton against the Tigers.
A week is a long time in footy, as the old adage goes, but with only a couple of minutes to go in the first half on Mars Stadium against the Lions, he was utterly cold.
It had nothing to do with the chill coming off Mt. Buninyong, either. The confidence that we all witnessed a week earlier seemed to disappear from our young spearhead.
Different circumstances were at play. Harris Andrews is the Lions number one defender and a damn good player.
That, coupled with a slippery day out in the elements and a long way away from the roof at Marvel Stadium looked like it had all conspired against the young gun.
Another young player at this point might have turned up his toes and thought to himself ‘it’s just not my day’. But that’s not how Aaron Naughton ticks.
He marked just before the half time break, slotted a crucial goal from a tight angle and then re-emerged after half time with a hunger for the aerial contest that ripped the game apart.
I was more impressed with the ability to turn things around against the Lions than I was with his spectacular game the week before.
This week on the Bulldogs podcast Freedom in a Cage, Aaron stopped by to chat with Chris Anstey and I about his career to date, but with a sharper focus on the last two weeks.
It was fascinating to listen to the young Bulldog who has got everyone talking.
I don’t profess to know Aaron all that well. We’ve met a few times, but this was the first time I had sat with him and talked about footy and life.
From this small sample size though, I’ve observed a curious mix in his personality that might just be the perfect combination for life in the AFL hotpot.
To me at least, he doesn’t appear to be a stress carrier. When I asked him if he was a worrier, he told me he wasn’t. Sitting in his company for a while, I believed him.
Then I asked him if, underneath it all, was there a bedrock of confidence and he explained to me in a very matter of fact way, just how confident in his ability he is. I believed him.
Another golden opportunity reveals itself this week when we take on the league leaders down at Geelong.
We haven’t won down there since 2003. To beat the Cats at home, you first, have to believe in yourself.
This Bulldogs team might just be good enough to do it. I believe in them.