HE IS the Tiger who went under the radar in last year's premiership win.
But Richmond defender David Astbury says youngster Liam Baker is set to take his game up another notch in 2020 when matches resume after the AFL's shutdown.
TIGERS' SHUTDOWN REPORT CARD Weapons, downfall, more
The tough and determined Tiger started last season as a small forward but finished it as a premiership backman after a mid-year position swap in the VFL.
Astbury said his defensive partner is primed to take another step up after a strong pre-season.
"I feel like his upside is enormous and he's such an enormous character around the footy club. I have huge faith and belief in him developing into a serious player," Astbury told AFL.com.au.
"I see the Liam Baker story as one that's really underrated. He's a tremendous athlete and so hard working but he sets himself apart with his hands and his toughness.
"He had moments in the finals that didn't get the exposure they deserve but they were really, really tough critical moments. He's a brave boy and we're so lucky to have him."
Baker, who played 19 games last season on the Tigers' run to their second flag in three years, had entered 2019 with only four games next to his name.
But a two-year contract has locked in the 22-year-old West Australian at the club until at least the end of 2021 after establishing himself as an important player in Richmond's defensive set-up.
Astbury is similarly bullish about the development of young midfielder Jack Ross, who narrowly missed playing in the Tigers' Grand Final win over Greater Western Sydney. Ross was named an emergency which ended an impressive debut season.
"I feel like the more work we put into Jack Ross, the more beneficial it's going to be for our footy club.
"He's highly astute and has a great football IQ and real leadership qualities and I just want that boy to really believe in himself in the next period of his career because he can be part of the furniture.
"[Ross and Baker] are certainly the ones who I really see taking big steps when the season commences."
Astbury, 29, has spent the majority of time during football's pause due to COVID-19 back on his family's wheat farm in Tatyoon, a small town in western Victoria where he grew up.
He said the Tigers' focus on mental wellbeing and resilience had helped him adjust to the abnormal circumstances of this season, and the wait for games to recommence.
"I was quick to shift my perspective and be grateful for what I've got and that was, in these times, being able to get out of the city and get back to Tatyoon and have purpose back there, particularly helping my dad on the farm," he said.
"It's true absence does make the heart grow fonder, and certainly Melbourne and Australian society is crying out for football and I want to get the season going because I just want to get back around my people."