EXCITING draft prospect Koltyn Tholstrup had three farming idols and one football hero as he grew up on the family cattle farm in Esperance in WA's south eyeing off a life in agriculture.
Dad Stuart, his grandpa John, and local livestock agent Peter 'Windy' Gale taught him life lessons on the land, while Subiaco key forward Ben Sokol provided a dose of footy inspiration when the Lions came to town to play Claremont in 2017.
Farming was always the main passion for the 18-year-old forward, who doesn't like to blend into the crowd, but when it came time to decide whether he pursued football, the reasoning in the end was simple.
"We grew up on a farm, we had cattle, and I loved everything farming. That was the priority for me growing up and I loved getting up and working with grandpa and dad," Tholstrup told AFL.com.au as he prepares for this month's draft.
"I learned a lot from them and really cherish the memories I have with them. Then on the sporting side of things, Ben Sokol was inspiring to watch coming up playing footy and the way he went about it as a Subiaco boy.
"It was a decision to be a farmer or play footy, but you can be a farmer for the rest of your life. You can't play footy forever. So it was quite easy to put farming aside for a while and really focus on footy."
Tholstrup's passion for farming took him to the WA School of Agriculture in Cunderdin, 150km east of Perth, for the final two years of his schooling, where he was a standout student, earning seven certificates and the VET Dux.
Invited to train with Subiaco's senior team ahead of the 2023 season, however, he made the decision to relocate to Perth and is now viewed as a first-round prospect at the November 20-21 draft following an eye-catching year for the Lions and WA under-18s.
"Being in Cunderdin for two years, I was in Perth pretty much every weekend and I saw how much better my game got being able to get up to Perth and be around a lot of high-level coaches," Tholstrup said.
"Doing a pre-season with the senior group at Subiaco cemented the decision and I knew that football was what I wanted to do, and moving to Perth was the best step for my football.
"Spending this year at league level with the big bodies and the big boys really prepared me in the best way possible for that next step and I'm ready to give it everything I've got."
Tholstrup played 10 league games for Subiaco this season, including three finals, and stood out as a competitive and dynamic forward who can push into the midfield to utilise his game sense and penetrating kick.
He averaged 19 disposals, six marks and seven score involvements through the national championships with WA, impressing in his first game of the carnival against South Australia with several contested marks and a brilliant gather and snap.
After spending time on the sidelines with a groin injury, the teenager's results at the Draft Combine thrust him back into the forefront of recruiters' thoughts after ranking second in the agility test (8.18) and top 10 in the 2km time trial.
Off the field he is an extroverted character with a larrikin streak who likes to be a bit different, with his coaches regarding him as great for a team environment and recruiters constantly impressed through his pre-draft interviews.
His op shop outfits and sunglasses can be "a little bit different", Tholstrup said, but behind the expressive personality is a driven professional who seeks to get the most out of every day and every opportunity he earns.
"To be a professional athlete on the field you have to be one off the field as well, so I've tried my best to do that," the 186cm forward said.
"It's been drilled into us in Esperance from an early age. Once you hit under-16s you rock up in black dress pants, dress shoes, and you tuck your shirt in and look your best.
"That's where it all started, really rocking up as a team and that's grown as I've gone through the pathway."
While now-teammate Sokol has been a forward line mentor at Subiaco this year, Tholstrup has also looked to Brisbane forward Cam Rayner and North Melbourne goalkicker Cam Zurhaar as players to model his own game on. St Kilda forward Jack Higgins brings the energy he would like to replicate.
As an AFL player, there will be room for keeping his passion for farming alive through study, having looked at some agri-business courses at university, but now he is excited about what is possible later this month and how he would attack his first weeks at a new club.
"I'd just go in, meet as many people as possible and gain as much respect as you can," he said.
"That obviously takes time, but learn how it all works, go hard, and try and get the most out of each day that you're there and maximise your time."