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CLAYTON Oliver's rise into draft calculations this year has taken the rugged midfielder by surprise.

The Murray Bushrangers product, who switched from TAC Cup club Bendigo Pioneers last year, started this season having identified next year's NAB AFL Draft as his best hope.

After struggling to break into Bendigo's team last year and then developing some osteitis pubis, Oliver moved to Mooroopna in country Victoria to be closer to his school for year 12.

He was encouraged to join the Bushrangers, and it has been a successful move. After a slow start to the season, Oliver came home with a rush in the Morrish Medal count to take out this year's best player in the TAC Cup competition.

Oliver played senior football for Mooroopna as a 16-year-old which afforded him a grounding against mature bodies, and with a good run with injury this year he flourished against players his own age. 

Oliver's numbers stack up really well as a ball-winning midfielder. He averaged 24 disposals (14 contested) a game for the Bushrangers at a disposal efficiency of 70 per cent. He also averaged six tackles and six clearances every outing, proving his hunger for the contest. Oliver's not super quick but moves smartly (he finished third in the agility test at the NAB AFL Draft Combine).

As well as his clear ability as a midfielder, Oliver is reliable overhead and likes to float forward to hit the scoreboard. He booted 20 goals this season from 16 games with the Bushrangers, including a six-goal haul in the final round of the home and away season. He's also a nice user of the ball, evidenced by his perfect score in the goalkicking test at the combine.

He has also shown a willingness to match it with senior opposition, having played two games with Richmond's VFL side this season and averaged 15 disposals. Oliver is a tough and unconditional type of player: he doesn't change his style whatever level he's playing. That quality should hold him in good stead in the AFL.

If a club goes for Oliver with an early selection, then it will be doing so on the back of a relatively small sample of games. That's something clubs will need to weigh up, given Oliver's exposed form at the top level isn't quite as significant as what others have produced, particularly after he missed the mid-year under-18 championships.

Oliver is also keen to continue to improve his running capacity. That will come with more time in an elite environment and better conditioning, but the signs were there at the draft combine that there's plenty of scope. He ran 10:45 in the 3km time trial and also recorded a 3.00-second 20-metre sprint.

Oliver is a similar type of player to Carlton youngster Patrick Cripps. Neither is especially quick or explosive, but both play with power and attack the contest with ferocity.

Oliver's barnstorming second half of the season has seen him push into first-round contention. He is being considered as a top-10 pick and won't last too much longer should he not be taken there. 

With a touch of swagger and an appetite for the physical side of the game, Oliver has some old-fashioned footy traits ingrained in his make-up. Perhaps the most exciting thing about him is the room for improvement and growth: at his rate of development in a short period of time this year, there should be plenty left in him.