PORT ADELAIDE assistant coach Brett Montgomery has been involved in AFL football as both a player and a coach for more than 20 years and he hasn't seen a teenage draftee more mentally prepared than Connor Rozee.
Rozee, the No.5 pick in last year's NAB AFL Draft, has received the round three nomination for the NAB AFL Rising Star award after a remarkably mature five-goal performance in a losing team against Brisbane at the Gabba on Saturday night.
Montgomery isn't surprised by the accelerated development of the Power prodigy, whom he hailed as "a fantastic acquisition".
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"The way Connor turned up here was extremely impressive. He arrived a very well-developed young man physically and mentally, and in terms of his craft, his knowledge and game sense, which was a breath of fresh air," the Port assistant told AFL.com.au.
"Apart from his obvious talents with the ball – being clean, his silky-smooth skills and his decision-making – he's one of these rare kids who understands his role in team defence and at stoppage to set the ground up. He's got a high level of footy acumen and intellect. He's as good as anyone I've seen in those areas.
"He came out of a really strong program at (SANFL club) North Adelaide and we've reaped those rewards."
Playing with and against men in a senior SANFL premiership with North Adelaide under coach Josh Carr and assistant coach Jacob Surjan, both former Port players, proved invaluable for Rozee.
"Most of the Victorian boys come out of playing under-18s footy but in South Australia we have the advantage of playing senior footy. You come up against bigger bodies and the intensity rises, and mentally there were a lot of meetings, so that and my time with the (NAB) AFL Academy prepared me well for AFL life," he told AFL.com.au.
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Rozee, whose father Robert played for South Adelaide, was prominent in his first two AFL appearances in wins over Melbourne and Carlton, but he wowed the football world with his effort against the Lions.
Stats guru 'Swamp' revealed Rozee was among only five players in the AFL era (since 1990) to have enjoyed a 20-touch, five-goal performance inside three games. He was the first to do it in 17 years.
At 19 years and 74 days he is also the youngest Power player to bag five goals in a game, edging out the club's greatest forward Warren Tredrea by 62 days.
He'd kicked his handful of majors by the two-minute mark of the last quarter, snaring them in various ways: a high mark, on a lead, winning a free kick for holding the ball, snapping another and drilling a long one on the run after intercepting a pass. He also had a hand in a few others.
Though he appeared a natural goalkicker, Rozee couldn't remember the last time he'd kicked five goals. He thinks he might have done it at under-16 level.
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"When you start playing in the AFL you just want to play a part and keep your spot for the next week so I didn't envisage kicking five goals, but I felt I was getting pretty dangerous up forward in the earlier games," he said.
"I probably could have ended up with a couple more if I'd finished better, and it was a disappointing result for us, but it was good to build some confidence."
The performance only strengthened the comparisons with former Power star Chad Wingard, who was traded to Hawthorn just before Rozee arrived at Alberton. The youngster, who also boasts speed, a great leap, elusiveness and goal sense, will probably never escape that link given he inherited Wingard's old No.20.
"It's a massive compliment," Rozee said of the perceived Wingard similarities. "I've got a long way to go to get to his level, but hopefully I can keep playing well and keep my spot and hopefully play finals this year."
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The versatile Rozee played in defence for North Adelaide last year and is making a great fist of it as a forward, but he also has enormous midfield potential, and it's in the middle that he and Montgomery see his future.
"I need to build my tank and put on some body size but I think I can develop into a pretty damaging midfielder," Rozee said.
Montgomery said that players with Rozee's pace and skill set inevitably end up spending considerable time in the midfield at some point.
"To his credit, last week we needed a back so he went back. This week we lost a winger in Karl Amon so he was in the conversation to play wing. There's certainly no lack of confidence about his flexibility in what he can do for the team," Montgomery said.
"And whilst he can be electrifying and he can do the insanely brilliant stuff, he does the basic things really well. His fundamentals are outstanding."