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How a midfield move confirmed Clark's draft status

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 09:  Hunter Clark of the Stingrays is tackled by Joel Garner of the Ranges during the TAC Cup Final between Dandenong and Eastern Ranges at Victoria Park on September 9, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Daniel Pockett/AFL Media/Getty Images)
New St Kilda midfielder Hunter Clark tore the second half of the elimination final win apart, stamping himself as a top 10 pick.
I just wanted to prove to myself that I could be a good inside player at under-18 level and I think I had a pretty solid year playing as an inside midfielder.
Hunter Clark

Hunter Clark starred at half-back in his bottom age year in the TAC Cup, emerging as one of the best ball users in his draft pool, but it wasn’t enough for the teenager.

He felt he was being pigeonholed as an outside player and wanted to do something about it in his draft year.

His second last performance of 2017 underlined this desire. In an elimination final at Victoria Park, Clark rolled up his sleeves and helped Dandenong reel in a 50-point half-time deficit in a stunning come-from-behind win over Eastern.

The 18-year-old finished with 16 tackles and 15 contested possessions that day, providing a timely reminder of how valuable he’d become on the inside this year.

Clark, who St Kilda selected with their first pick (No. 7) in this year’s NAB AFL Draft, finished the TAC Cup season ranked No. 5 for clearances, No. 6 for contested possessions and disposals and No. 8 for tackles, shedding any possible doubt regarding his game.

“Last year as a 17-year-old I played pretty much all year at half-back or on a wing so I kind of got pigeonholed as an outside player, which I’m fine to be an outside player but I also wanted to prove that I can be just as effective on the inside,” Clark told saints.com.au at the end of his first week at Linen House Centre.

“So I just wanted to prove to myself that I could be a good inside player at under-18 level and I think I had a pretty solid year playing as an inside midfielder.

“My body is probably more sorted to an outside role at the moment, so whether that will be a half-back role or on a wing, I’ll make the most of it.”

Despite dreaming of playing AFL for as long as he can remember, actually walking into the club for the first time is a challenge you don’t contemplate until you arrive at the front door. For Clark, week one was like starting school all over again.

“You dream of playing AFL your whole life, so this is a part of it. Walking into a club for the first time is kind of like starting school again; you don’t really know anyone and the place isn’t familiar,” he said.

“The first week has been pretty surreal in that aspect. I really didn’t know what to expect. I’ve loved every minute of it every day. All the boys, coaches and staff have been awesome – I’ve enjoyed every second of it.”

With the dust now settled, the Mt Martha product recalled moments where St Kilda’s recruiters they showed indications they would pick him. Although, he was never sure until the Saints read out his name with their first of two top 10 picks.

“There were a couple of interviews were the recruiters asked me how I would go playing a certain role if they were to draft me and those things give you a little glimmer that they might be interested,” he said.

“But until I was read out, I was pretty clueless really about where I’d end up.”