VIC METRO teammates Josh Eyre and Cody Raak have plenty in common.
This year's NAB AFL Draft hopefuls are both key position players, both attend the Alex Rance Academy, both are eagerly awaiting the under-18 season resumption and are both tied to AFL clubs via Next Generation Academies (Eyre with the Bombers, Raak with the Bulldogs).
So what separates them?
NAB LEAGUE Late-season return on the cards
"He's a big centre half-forward and I'm a medium-sized centre half-back," said Raak.
"Before and after training we get a few of the boys to kick it up and we go for it. It's about 50-50, he marks one and then I'll mark the next one."
At 194cm, Raak isn't too undersized. But against the versatile and athletic 197cm Eyre, every bit helps.
The pair have used their time productively waiting for the green light to restart the NAB League season – albeit for separate teams (Raak with the Western Jets and Eyre for the Calder Cannons).
For Raak it's been about improving his endurance and fitness, while Eyre has overcome a hamstring issue that would have forced him out of the first handful of games of the under-18 campaign if not for the COVID-19 pause.
"It's given me extra time to make sure I'm 100 per cent and it's worked out pretty good for me. I feel like I'm fitter than ever so it's worked out well," Eyre said.
"Hopefully in the games that we can get in at the end of the year I'll be able to really show what I'm made of."
The injury meant Eyre, whose mum is of Indigenous descent, wasn't able to get out on the track during his training block with Essendon last year as part of the NGA program.
"When I first got there and walked into the locker room and seeing big Joey Daniher just sitting there it was unreal. I was in shock seeing them train and how competitive they all are and how hard you have to work to get there," said Eyre, an Essendon fan.
"Being an Essendon supporter and being in their zone has worked out really well. Absolutely I'd 100 per cent want to go to Essendon being a supporter all my life. I really just want to join an AFL club."
The Dogs have first call on Raak under the multicultural qualifications as his father was born in South Africa before moving to Australia as a seven-year-old.
His time with the Dogs has shown him about the standards required at an AFL club.
"It's been great to go in and sit in the meetings and see what a day in the life of an AFL player is like," he said.
The pair joined the Alex Rance Academy last year, with the school founded by the retired Richmond star.
It mixes academia with sports training and physical work, with morning classes often followed by training sessions in the afternoons.
Rance, a five-time Virgin Australia AFL All Australian who shocked the football world when he quit last December, also helps the youngsters.
"'Rancey' comes in when he can and he runs training and he's also helped me and Cody with contested marking and skills which were very helpful," Eyre said.