CALEB Serong got knocked down, but he got up again.
The midfielder was playing for Geelong Grammar against rivals Brighton Grammar, coming off a NAB AFL Under-18 Championships for Vic Country that saw him named an All Australian. Serong had little left to prove.
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But in the second half, Serong was on the end of a heavy hit, grounded after a kick in the back half. Recruiters at the game had their eyes zeroed on Serong's reaction.
Serong didn't flinch, returning to the play, laying a bump on the opponent who dished it out, and then proceeding to play a starring role in his team's stirring tight win.
"You really saw that hunger inside him to compete and compete and compete," one scout said. "He did that all year."
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The 179cm Gippsland Power prospect had a brilliant under-18 season, showing he can impact games in the midfield with his power and strength, and then when he goes forward his ability to mark overhead and be classy at ground level.
It has seen Serong draw comparisons from recruiters to a Port Adelaide star.
"I love watching Robbie Gray at AFL level. He's a ripper forward and midfielder too, so he has those two strings to his bow and can do those two things really well," Serong told AFL.com.au.
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"Toby Greene and Devon Smith are another two who can play well in both areas so are fantastic players.
"I'm a midfielder who can go forward. Long-term I'd love to play in the midfield and that's where I think I can play my best footy, but I can also go forward and play that high half-forward role.
"Around the footy I'm quite clean and have some real intensity around the footy in terms of pressure."
All of that was on display throughout 2019. Serong's numbers stack up, and he averaged 24 disposals, seven clearances and a goal for the Power in the NAB League.
He was also a consistent member of the Vic Country side that he co-captained, where he averaged 23 disposals. Serong said he had managed to ignore the hype about being an early pick.
"It's all noise but for me it was all just focusing on footy and taking it step by step. Whether it was the training session ahead of me, or the gym session or the game, or whether it's just class, I wanted to be in the present and live in the moment," he said.
"That's allowed me to focus on what I'm doing and not think too far into the future."
Serong grew up in Inverloch in Victoria's south-east, before shifting to Geelong Grammar at the start of last year, where he will finish Year 12 this year.
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The 18-year-old has taken school seriously with an eye to study commerce next year, but he's also kept an eye on the draft order as next week draws closer.
"It is hard not to look at what clubs are around the pick. But in the end nothing's set in stone, you never know where you're going and a lot can change," he said.