BROUGHT TO YOU BYNAB

IT WAS after last year's preliminary final loss to the Eastern Ranges when a couple of Gippsland Power's best and brightest young players asked for an explanation.

A series of injuries to the NAB League side's tall talents had forced Zach Reid, then a wiry and still developing bottom-age defender, to be thrown into the ruck throughout the club's finals series.

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But although it might have been a move considered out of necessity, it was a move that Reid relished. In that preliminary final, the highly rated youngster won 20 disposals, 10 hitouts and had seven intercept possessions to finish as one of the game's best players.

So up stepped some of Gippsland's most important midfielders, including the eventual NAB AFL Rising Star winner Caleb Serong and fellow first-round pick Sam Flanders, asking why Reid hadn't been shifted into the middle sooner in the season.

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From a coaching perspective, the answer was simple. Reid was just too important down back. Given how good he was in the ruck during that finals series, it goes to show just how valuable he is in his key defensive post.

"I think I'm capable of playing there (in the ruck)," Reid told AFL.com.au.

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"I think I've got the attributes to play there. I was just happy in that game with the way I competed. A few of the boys were down during that game and I thought I stepped up as a bottom-ager.

"I was pretty proud of that. Obviously, we didn't get it done. But I definitely think I have the potential to move into the ruck or forward at the next level."

Zach Reid relished his brief time in the ruck for Gippsland Power during last year's NAB League finals series. Picture: AFL Photos

Reid has since emerged as one of this year's most coveted NAB AFL Draft prospects, with his versatility a key part of his appeal.

As well as moving through the ruck to great success during his time with Gippsland, he also went forward on occasion. Against the Geelong Falcons in June last year, Reid was thrown into attack with the Power trailing by 27 points at three-quarter time.

They quickly whittled away the deficit, with Reid sealing a six-goal turnaround in the final term with a strong mark and a trademark precise finish to ultimately secure his side's thrilling four-point win.

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But it's down back where Reid prefers to play and where he will likely begin his AFL career next season. It's also where he's looked most comfortable throughout his time with the Gippsland Power.

Able to intercept effectively courtesy of his height and his elite marking ability, it's his pinpoint right foot that allows him to consistently lace out teammates from defence that separates him from the other talls in this year's loaded draft group.

"I was hoping to play down back this year, but I'm always open to getting thrown around a bit," Reid said.

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"I think my versatility is one of my strengths and I want to play to my strengths. I'm obviously happy to move around, but I was pretty keen on settling down back this year."

That versatility is only part of why Reid is near-certain to be a first-round pick at next month's draft, with a number of clubs fervently doing their homework on one of the crop's best key-position prospects.

Essendon will consider calling his name with one of its three top-10 selections (picks No.6, 7 and 8), while Greater Western Sydney (picks No.10, 13, 15 and 20) and Collingwood (picks No.14 and 16) will also be in the mix to land the talented teenager.

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It should be no surprise that he has plenty of suitors. Few draft hopefuls stand at 202cm, are strong in the air, but have the mobility and kicking precision that Reid possesses.

Importantly, he will also arrive with some valuable perspective on what it takes to make the next level.

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His older brother Kyle, also a key defender who plied his trade with the Gippsland Power, was one of the draft's unlucky stories back in 2018. Despite a strong junior season, he missed his chance to earn his place on an AFL list.

Kyle has since signed with VFL team Port Melbourne, but has lately been providing the younger Reid with plenty of feedback and advice on how to handle the twists and turns involved in the lead-up to the draft.

"Throughout Kyle's top-age year, he was pretty highly rated," Reid said.

"He played a pretty good nationals carnival, but his form dropped off towards the end. I obviously couldn't take his feedback into this year, because there were no games, but he told me he listened to the outside noise a bit.

"He maybe got ahead of himself and didn't stay in the moment. That's some of the advice he gave me, so I've just made sure I stayed in the moment and tried to trust the people around me."

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Now, that advice is close to paying off and a lifelong ambition is close to being fulfilled.

"It would mean everything to get drafted," Reid said.

"It's been my goal ever since I started kicking the footy. It's been a lot of hard work over the last few years, so for it to come to fruition and for my name to get called I would be over the moon."