WHEN Billy Hartung quit cricket and started competing in triathlons as a teenager, it wasn't because he particularly enjoyed the gut-busting effort of his new summer sport.
It was because, like now, everything he did was calculated to make himself a better footballer.
And having earned a spot in Hawthorn's powerful team and now the NAB AFL Rising Star nomination for round seven, Hartung's commitment is clearly paying off.
"It's not one of the most fun sports to do, triathlon – there's a lot of hard work that goes into it, especially training-wise," Hartung told AFL.com.au.
"I don't really miss it too much but it was great for my footy. That's where I get my endurance from."
Hartung's running power made recruiters sit up and take notice during the 2013 draft combine, when the 177cm speedster smashed Bradley Hill's previous beep test record of 16.1 with a 16.6 effort.
On Saturday at the MCG, the hard-running pair duo shone in the same team as Hawthorn dismantled Melbourne to the tune of 105 points.
Hartung played probably his best game in brown and gold, gathering 26 touches - which he used at 100 per cent efficiency – and booting a goal from his seven kicks.
But it was a couple of running bounces and handballs with Hill that particularly caught the eye during the second quarter.
In a blistering transfer from deep in defence, the speedsters shared the ball down the southern wing, before Hill delivered lace-out to Jack Gunston inside 50 to cap off a devastating passage of play.
"Hilly and I found a bit of space out there on the weekend," Hartung said.
"That's why I'm in the team; my strength is run and carry. It makes it a lot easier for me to have a lot of great players around to give me the ball and obviously there was a bit of open paddock."
The Hawks have often unleashed Hartung alongside Hill and Isaac Smith – who missed the Demons clash due to illness – since they drafted him with pick No.24 in 2013, with the pacy trio complimenting inside ball-winners Sam Mitchell, Jordan Lewis and Luke Hodge.
Hartung, 20, played seven games in his debut season before suffering an elbow injury, and he's averaging nearly 22 touches and a goal per game in five matches this year.
He's driven by the lure of joining so many of his teammates as a premiership player, and his management is in the throes of negotiating a contract extension to keep him at the club he "loves" beyond this year.
But if there's another accolade he wants besides a flag, it's Smith's 2km time-trial crown, which he missed out on by a matter of metres last pre-season.
"There's always a bit of banter between me and Izzy and Hilly about the 2km time trial," said Hartung, who is the Hawks' first Rising Star nominee since Hill in round six, 2013.
"One day it will be nice if get him in the time trial, but we'll have to wait until next pre-season."
Billy Hartung's junior club: Mornington Football Club
Billy Hartung sends the pigeons scattering at the MCG on Saturday. Picture: AFL Media