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Top draft chance Tom Boyd enjoys attention

Is this the 2013 draft's number one pick? Eastern Ranges key forward Tom Boyd is tipped by many to be the first name called at November's National draft
The AIS-AFL Academy game against Collingwood boosted Tom Boyd's confidence and resolve - ${keywords}
The AIS-AFL Academy game against Collingwood boosted Tom Boyd's confidence and resolve
The dream is to play AFL and the scrutiny and pressure and expectation is just part of that now
Tom Boyd
AT THE start of this season Tom Boyd felt he had something to prove to himself and everybody else.

Heading into the AIS-AFL Academy's match with the Collingwood VFL side in March, Boyd wanted to play well. That's normal - he sets himself lofty standards which is just one reason why he is ranked so highly in this year's draft pool.

But there was specific motivation.

The 199cm, 102kg Eastern Ranges key forward has heard and seen people say his size is the obvious reason for his dominance at under-18 level; that he should play well because he towers over his opposition, that of course he is kicking goals and taking big marks.

Boyd wanted to show his strong, mature frame was one of his weapons, but not the only one.

"People my size are going to get those [comments]," Boyd told AFL.com.au. "I think it's inevitable."

"But when I think about it, I'm a similar size to those guys who are playing really well in the AFL, so my size is maybe an excuse for me being good now but at the end of the day those guys playing AFL now are pretty similar in size and shape.

"That gives me a bit of confidence that in terms of body composition and that kind of thing I'm not that far away.

“That Collingwood game got me to realise that really we're not that far away from playing senior footy."

Boyd left the MCG that afternoon with more belief, and recruiters left with an even better idea of his standing and ability.

The 17-year-old had 16 possessions, but took 10 marks (five contested) against older and more physical opposition than usual.

When the ball moved forward for the Academy, Boyd was on the end of it most times, taking the ball cleanly or creating a contest. He kicked a goal, and could have had another couple if his usually dependable radar was on.

Boyd goes into his second NAB AFL Under-18 Championships, which start next weekend, with different expectations than his first.

Last year he was 16 and more than a year-and-a-half away from being drafted, able to kick a few goals while others in Vic Metro's line-up, like Joe Daniher, Jack Viney and close friend Nick Vlastuin, shared the limelight.

This year, as one of a couple of players in contention as the No.1 draft pick, Boyd is dealing with some new things.

More people are watching him, evaluating him, asking about him, and wanting to know about him.

He is interested to see how he handles it.

"I think it's just part and parcel of if you want to be successful. Obviously the dream is to play AFL and the scrutiny and pressure and expectation is just part of that now," he said.

"It's something you need to learn to deal with. If anything I'm excited to see how I react to it, how I deal with it, and I guess I'll just take it as it comes."

Boyd is balanced. He sets time aside for a tutor on weekends, and wants to study engineering next year. He's a thinker, sometimes becoming an over-thinker.

He has always been serious about footy, and has regularly been a captain through junior levels, often worrying about his teammates, what they're doing and how they could be getting better.

That element is still there – Boyd captained the AIS-AFL Academy in its match in England last month – but he's found a way to blend caring for others with pushing himself. His dad, Geoff, has had a hand in that.

"He keeps reminding me that footy's a simple game, and that's the way you've got to look at it," Boyd said.

It hasn't necessarily been a smooth ascension, though.

Six weeks before the NAB AFL Under-16s Championships grew closer in 2011, Boyd injured his back.

Flicking between representative and local football and not doing much training in between meant Boyd's conditioning dropped and he put on weight. His running and leading game, which had been going so well before the injury, wasn't happening for Vic Metro.

"My body wasn't up to playing that role. It was a bit disappointing," Boyd said.

But he reflects on that carnival as a good thing. It was an opportunity to learn more about his football, and himself. The lessons have stuck.

"I don't really regret it at all because I got the perspective of where I need to be at and where I need to improve, and I came back and had a pretty reasonable bottom-age year last year," he said.

"If anything, it was beneficial, a wake-up call.

"You're always going to get it at some point. Getting it then was probably as good a time as any."

Follow AFL website reporter Callum Twomey on Twitter at @AFL_CalTwomey.