• Draft order: Your club's provisional picks
• Get to know your club's next young guns at the NAB AFL Draft Hub

REUBEN William's beaming smile and genial nature masks a torrid, tragic upbringing. 

The South Sudanese speedster has certainly come from a long way back to be in the frame for next month's NAB AFL Draft. 

When William was an infant, his father Deng was among two million people to die during Sudan's civil war, which ravaged their homeland from 1983-2005. 

William can't remember his father.

The family lived in South Sudan, where the war started and which remained a hotbed of conflict. 

It still is –another horrific civil war has raged in the fledgling republic since December 2013. 

Reuben William's mother Veronica did it hard with her five children, of which Reuben was the second-youngest. 

"Mum is always telling us how hard life was (back in Sudan)," he told AFL.com.au.

"She worked in construction so she'd have to carry three bricks on her head to carry them from one site to another.

"What she had to do just to get money to feed us was really tough. She's sacrificed heaps for us – and she still does – and we'll always be grateful for that."

Veronica William fled Sudan with her children to Kenya, where they spent considerable time in a refugee camp. 

They had each other, and some dreams for a better life, but little else.

They migrated to Australia in 2002, when William was four, and he hasn't looked back.

The family settled in Brisbane and received some much-needed help from a Christian support group. 

Now 17, William insists he has never pondered what his life might have been like had his family remained in South Sudan.

"I'm here, I'm happy, that's all that matters. I prefer to keep looking forward to all the exciting possibilities," he said. 

The main one being his prospective AFL career.

Lightning quick and with a flair for ball sports, William gave up soccer, rugby and basketball in his mid-teens to focus on footy.

"I was better at it than I was at the other sports, so it was an easy decision," he said.

He picked up the game quickly, crediting much of his early development to Zillmere juniors stalwart and "father figure" Maurie Fitzgerald.

"Maurie and his wife Vera have been like a second family for me," he said.

William also received encouragement from his mother. 

"Mum just wanted us to socialise and have fun, and there's no better way to do that than play footy. I've already made mates for life," he said.

Reuben William in action for Queensland in this year's Under-18 Championships. Picture: AFL Media
An early inspiration was fellow Sudanese player Aliir Aliir, the Swans' developing tall.

"Aliir's a local (Brisbane) boy who's only a few years older than me, and I went to his place when he was younger," William said.

"It's great when someone you know makes it because it gives you something to aspire to." 

William is rated a chance to be a late pick or a rookie selection. 

A Brisbane Lions fan, he is a member of the Lions' talent academy and this year had the "unbelievable thrill" of playing with the club's reserves in the NEAFL.

The medium-sized defender was also integral to Queensland's effort to win the second division title in this year's NAB AFL U18 Championships. 

William averaged 17 disposals (seven contested) in three games and was named in Queensland's best players each time, including second-best in the final against NSW/ACT. 

He was perhaps unlucky not to make the All Australian team. 

"I was a little bit disappointed to miss out, but I had a good (championships), that's the main thing," he said.

William was also mildly disappointed not to achieve his pre-season goal of being nominated for the NEAFL's rising star award, but his cause wasn't helped by a groin injury that prematurely ended his season.

Until then, William had played eight NEAFL games – each in losing teams – and gathered at least 15 possessions in half of them. 

His standout performance was against the Sydney Swans reserves when he had 23 touches (10 contested) at 83 per cent efficiency. 

"Playing in the NEAFL was a great learning curve," William said. 

"It was so fast and you need to have good reactions and make good decisions because if you get it wrong it can have big ramifications."

William also represented Queensland in five TAC Cup games, averaging 18.6 possessions, with a best effort of 28 disposals against top team North Ballarat at Eureka Stadium.

He's quick, evasive, has good ball skills, takes the game on, is hard at it and a strong tackler. 

"I like to read the play from half-back and pick the right time to leave my man and go, which helps me get to space and break the lines," William said.

Although he doesn't model himself on any AFL player in particular, he says he plays in a similar vein to Western Bulldogs speedster Jason Johannisen.

William eventually wants to become an "explosive midfielder who can break out of stoppages", but admits that he first needs to improve his endurance and kicking penetration. 

He hasn't been given any assurances by AFL clubs but still bubbles with positivity. 

"Every time I go to the Lions academy, I ask myself, 'What can I do this session to help me be better for the next game?' I just want to keep improving," he said.

He is studying for a bachelor of exercise and sports science, and loves helping out with some junior coaching at a local football club. 

"I've got a better footy brain than most Sudanese guys, probably because I've immersed myself in it for a long, long time. I'm obsessed with it," he said.

"I watch heaps of footy, and I love AFL Fantasy footy. It's a big competition between me and my mates." 

William is excited by the prospect of more players with Sudanese backgrounds joining AFL ranks, and believes his 15-year-old brother Isaac, who is also in the Lions academy, could have a great future.

"At the same age, he's a better player than I was. He's taller and he's got more tools. He's one to watch," big brother said.