As part of the Road to the Draft podcast series, AFL.com.au will be asking recruiters and list managers about their favourite draft pick throughout their time in scouting. This week Melbourne recruiting manager Jason Taylor, who has overseen the Demons' recruiting since 2013, shares his selection.
MELBOURNE recruiting manager Jason Taylor first spotted midfielder Aaron vandenBerg as a 14-year-old.
But it was a phone call during a beach walk eight years later that finally sealed his arrival as an AFL player.
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Taylor was working as a recruiter at Collingwood when vandenBerg, then playing in representative games in New South Wales, took his eye.
At that stage, before Greater Western Sydney entered the competition, clubs had access to young talents in the region and could sign players under scholarships to enhance the footprint of the AFL in the area.
One of the Pies' success stories out of the program was ruckman Jarrod Witts, now Gold Coast's captain.
The club didn't select vandenBerg, but Taylor, who took over the Demons' recruiting ahead of the 2013 season, didn't forget about the hard-at-it midfielder playing at south coast club Tathra.
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"Back in my days when I was working under Derek Hine at Collingwood, part of my brief early on was to run the New South Wales scholarship program when it was in," Taylor told the Road to the Draft podcast.
"Aaron played in those trial games as a 14 or 15-year-old up in Coffs Harbour to watch those games.
"We didn't sign him at the time but he certainly showed a bit, and we even sent a scout up to watch him in the local league up in Tathra where he might've kicked 10 or 11 goals from a wing."
Taylor, who rated vandenBerg as his favourite selection, kept watching as vandenBerg made it to Ainslie in the NEAFL, and he impressed enough to be selected as a rookie at the end of 2014.
"He was one of those ones who was a bit of an itch for me and that sat in the back of my mind," he said.
"When he came down and started playing in the NEAFL, and we saw his numbers, the way he goes about his footy, his attack on the ball and he really started to change shape in his body. He's quite a bull and he became a pretty prolific midfielder.
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"We did rate him but we knew we were a strong chance to get him in the rookie draft. I had a lot of good, long conversations with him and brought him into the club.
"I remember walking along the beach as I do most years with the ear piece in talking to him and making sure that he really wanted the opportunity and he assured me he was desperate for the opportunity. It's always a conversation you want to have."
vandenBerg has played 35 games for the Demons and looked set to establish himself as a key part of their midfield before foot and ankle injuries have ruined the past four years of his career.
The 28-year-old suffered another foot fracture during the Marsh Community Series and was set to miss three months with the injury.
"I think if he hadn't have had such bad [injury] luck…we'd be talking about him as a really good player in the AFL," Taylor said.