HORSHAM young gun Ben Hobbs will train alongside Australia's finest young footballers in the AFL Academy program next year.
Hobbs, 17, was one of 21 players selected from across the nation to take part in the re-formed academy.
The Horsham Demons' product said it was a thrill to be selected.
"It's great, especially after the year we've had," Hobbs said.
"To be selected and be recognised, it's a really good feeling, and it gives me great confidence going into my draft year."
Hobbs will train under the guidance of former AFL player Tarkyn Lockyer and play a one-off match against a VFL club as part of the academy.
Hobbs said he was excited to rediscover a love for football after a year without playing due to COVID-19.
"I actually wasn't too stressed about missing footy this year - I was confident that my performance in the under-16 carnival would hold me in good stead," he said.
"But the year off has just made me enjoy the game a bit more.
"At an elite environment, you can sometimes get too focused on performing, and you forget to enjoy yourself.
"I feel like after having so much time off, I can start to enjoy my footy a bit, which has been awesome."
Hobbs said the year off may have been a blessing in disguise.
"I'm a very self-motivated person, so I found the whole COVID-situation not too bad," he said.
"I'm actually feeling really good now - in terms of my body, I had a bit of a rest which was good for me. The position and the role I play, I get pretty sore after games, so it was good to hold off doing that bash and crash stuff for a year and just rest up.
"It was definitely a bit frustrating this year ... but my family and I have been thinking a year off might not have been such a bad thing for me."
Hobbs said it also felt surreal to be entering his draft year and being just 10 months away from realising a long-held dream.
"Ever since I made the under-12s Victorian team, (getting to the AFL) has been the goal," Hobbs said.
"Coming through the ranks and playing in all the rep teams, it's been more and more surreal.
"It's finally starting to sink in that it actually might happen - especially when something like this academy happens, it starts to feel pretty real."
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