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Hogan, Melbourne's hero in waiting

Jesse Hogan in action during a Melbourne Demons training session at Gosch's Paddock, Melbourne on November 27, 2013. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Jesse Hogan at Melbourne training
EVEN AS his Melbourne teammates struggled through 2013, it didn't enter Jesse Hogan's head that he might be better off elsewhere.  

Now on the senior list and with the season three months away, he is excited about the challenge.

All he hopes is that the expectations surrounding him will stay realistic.

Some hype will be hard to avoid: Hogan's name is already familiar to most football followers.

To Melbourne fans suffering through 2013 his name took on greater meaning.

It became, quite simply, a symbol of hope.

Ineligible to play after being picked up as a 17-year-old in the GWS mini-draft, he put in a memorable NAB Cup performance, kicked 39 goals in the VFL and then won the Casey Scorpions best and fairest.

And because he did it while the senior team floundered and the club underwent a massive upheaval, he provided the promise of better times ahead.

It is a promise he is willing to embrace despite his age and lack of experience, insisting that as he felt for his teammates during last season, he never became deterred about the prospect of lining up for Melbourne.  

"I love a bit of a challenge," Hogan said. "It's not something that has distressed or worried me too much."

He knows that the challenge awaiting him is huge, however.

More aware than most that he is yet to play on the game's best defenders, in front of big crowds and under the glare of constant scrutiny, he understands that many hurdles lie in front of him.  

"Obviously I'm not trying to put too many expectations on myself."

Because he knows he won't be able to hide from outside expectations Hogan carries just one wish about the anticipated hype: "I hope it [the expectations] stays realistic."

Hogan appears capable of handling the pressure and filtering what is said about him.

Long of stride, he is agile enough to enjoy surfing and can hit a pack at pace when active. He is a good runner and has impressed track watchers.

And in person he is polite, slightly offbeat and comfortable around his peers.

He's struck up a strong friendship with fellow West Australian Dean Kent, who played 15 games with the Demons in 2013. Mitch Clark provided great support too when Hogan arrived.

Like Clark and Kent, Hogan is a born competitor who eventually found his voice at VFL level.

"To start with I felt a bit out of place playing with bigger bodies for a while but towards the end of the year I felt good enough," he said.

The Demons are being realistic. They know Hogan is a talent but they don't intend to throw him to the wolves up forward.

They hope the presence of Chris Dawes and Clark inside 50 alongside Hogan will force opponents to dip deep into their defensive stocks to find a match-up for him.

At 193cm and weighing over 90kg, he should be a handful for anyone.

That is how Hogan hopes things pan out too.

New coach Paul Roos articulated where Hogan might fit into the line-up when he flew to Perth to visit him, his family and his manager just days after being appointed to the job.

Not only was Hogan excited by the appointment, he appreciated that Roos went out of his way to travel across the country to speak to those close to him.

When asked whether the premiership coach carried a bit of an aura, Hogan said simply: "Yeah, big time."

Roos' approach has impressed Hogan, who is tied to the club until the end of 2015.

"I've had a few discussions with him, nothing too in depth," he said.

Hogan is not a big conversationalist. He keeps many of his thoughts to himself but he knows where he might sit in the club's future.

Roos' willingness to jump on a plane and speak to his connections immediately is one indication of his importance.

The club has been keen to discuss extending his contract beyond 2015 but Hogan wants to begin under the same two-year conditions as all players drafted.

"[I had a] three-year deal to start with so there was no real rush. At the moment it's nothing personal, it's just that's how it is. [I will] concentrate on this year at the moment."  

There is no pressure. The club understands it needs to prove it is the place to be over time, and Hogan's early signs are positive.

"I'm actually loving Melbourne now. The weather is a bit different but there is so much more to do around here than Perth, which is a bit boring."

Now the time has arrived. He has laid good foundations and even been on the obligatory post-season trip to Thailand with teammates (he got sick while away).

The knee injury that ended his season early has been overcome and he was ready to go when he returned on November 6.

"I'm really excited. I can't wait to get into it and be officially on the list and be a part of the team rather than being a half-outsider, half-in. I'm super excited," Hogan said.

This piece by AFL.com.au reporter Peter Ryan appeared in Melbourne's club magazine Heartbeat