FOR SIX days in November last year, Tasmanian prospect Eli Templeton was left to wonder if his AFL dream was going to be put on hold for another 12 months.
Fast-forward to this week and the 18-year-old is a strong chance to play in St Kilda's season opener against Melbourne after being upgraded to the club's senior list for Lewis Pierce, who is battling back fractures.
Templeton, the hard-running midfield/forward prospect from Burnie, was dealt a blow last year when he wasn't picked up in the NAB AFL Draft.
After representing Tasmania at the under-18 national championships last year and playing senior football for the Burnie Dockers, he considered himself a chance to find an AFL home.
So when his name wasn't read out, he had to endure nearly a week until the rookie draft to find out if another chance was a whole year away.
"It certainly cut deep but I think it made me more determined and I just wanted to get there, for a long time now," Templeton told AFL.com.au on Tuesday, after being told of his promotion.
"It was hard, not knowing if I was going to get another chance with the rookie draft and if I was going to get picked up.
"I thought I had a chance but there were a lot of other good kids out there I was competing against."
He spent the six days between the drafts trying to keep his mind occupied.
He argued with his parents, Peter and Leanne, who tried to temper his hopes in case his name went through another draft without being mentioned.
He was on school holidays but his mates made sure they got him out of the house so he didn't sit around and ponder his chances of being rookied.
And, he had to wait the whole time without contact from the Saints, despite knowing they had been keen on him before the national draft.
"Their thought behind [the no contact] was they didn't want the word getting out they were keen on me because they were pretty confident if I was still there, they were going to take me," he said.
"They liked the way I played and they said if they had another pick [in the national draft] they would have taken me."
Templeton didn't have to wait long in the rookie draft to know his fate.
His name was called at pick No.3 overall. His excitement built further when fellow Burnie product and ex-Gold Coast midfielder Maverick Weller joined the Saints at selection No.20.
The acquisition of Weller made things even better for Templeton, especially when they were spirited away to Colorado for the altitude camp only days after being rookied.
The two grew up together; their fathers were former teammates, they attended the same school and Templeton is close friends with Weller's brother, 2014 draft prospect Lachie.
"I definitely would have got lost in the airport if I'd had to go over by myself," Templeton said.
"We share a good bond, which is good."
Templeton is living with a host family in Aspendale, close to both Seaford and Moorabbin, but has a key to Weller's house so he can visit whenever he wants to.
He's also developed a close bond with reigning best and fairest winner Jack Steven, who he was paired with as part of the Saints' buddy system.
Part of Templeton's game is his enviable endurance base, which he says saw him win every cross-country event he faced in primary school.
Initially though, he expects to fill a role as a small forward who provides pressure in attack with the occasional burst along the wing as his body develops to the point where he can lock down a full-time midfield role.
If Templeton is named to face the Demons, which appears likely, he expects his parents will make the trip from Tasmania to watch him in his AFL debut.
Draftee Luke Dunstan is expected to make his AFL debut against the Demons after an impressive pre-season while No.3 overall selection Jack Billings is also being considered.
The Saints' line up will be bereft of midfield experience with Steven out with a foot fracture, and senior duo Leigh Montagna and Lenny Hayes suspended for the first game.
Defender Sam Fisher (back tightness) and forward Adam Schneider (lower back bruising) will also miss but Sam Gilbert is a chance to play after overcoming a pre-season foot fracture.
Templeton expects his trademark blond dreadlocks, which formed naturally over the past three years since his last haircut, to feature for at least his first season.
"They might get annoying but they've taken me a fair while to get to," he said.
"I'll use the headband for now. I'll see what the future brings but I reckon they'll be around for this season."