Horsham Saint's rising star Mitch Martin is enjoying his time being back home and playing for his boyhood club.
The former GWV Rebel spent the 2020 season playing in the SANFL for Glenelg Tigers and tallied a 17 goals from 14 appearances for the Tigers' Reserves.
Despite an impressive stint with the Tigers, the lure of representing the Saints again and being closer to family was too great for the 20-year-old in 2021 and so far he says the season is going "really well".
"When we are playing I feel we're doing really good, we are young and we are probably the underdog team of the year," Martin said.
"We're not really meant to be up there I guess, a lot of people have already thrown us under the bus kind of thing, so it really fills me to go out there and give it everything I've got to prove a lot of people wrong.
The Saints currently sit in a healthy fifth spot, although they are two wins behind Dimboola in fourth, which Martin is not bothered by.
"We're probably not sitting where we want to sit, but I mean we're not out of it and that's enough for me," he said.
While Martin played a lot of his footballing career as a forward, the start of 2021 has seen him play a midfield-halfback hybrid role for his side.
That being said the Saint hasn't quite lost sight of the big sticks, kicking nine goals from just the five games, including a bag of three against Minyip-Murtoa in round five.
Back at Glenelg Martin was able to learn firsthand about some of what it takes to be an AFL player, something that he said put him in "good stead" for this year.
His club featured numerous ex-AFL players including Luke Partington and Billy Stretch, the latter who somewhat mentored Martin.
"We had these groups, you could only train with so many people, so I was lucky enough to get Billy Stretch and he was amazing!" Martin said.
"I did maybe 5-10 one-on-one sessions with him at his house in the gym and then would go running and man he left me behind a couple of times.
"But I guess it's the kinda stuff that you've got to do, so I just told him whenever he was gonna do something make sure you tell me to do it as well."
Martin isn't short of football mentors at the Saints either with the likes of 2016 Toohey Medallist Sam Clyne the perfect person to learn off.
"He (Clyne) is everything that I'm striving to be, so I'm just trying to learn as much as I can off him as well," he said.
"He's been awesome for me, he's keeping me really grounded."
Despite not being picked up by an AFL club in his 2019 draft year, Martin still holds out hope that he might one day play at the highest level.
The 20-year-old is one of almost 500 players nationally that have nominated for the AFL Mid-season Draft, held on June 2 and although his chances of being picked up are admittedly slim, he will still be keeping an ear out for any phone calls on the night.
"The chances probably aren't as good coming back to the Wimmera League as it would have been to probably stay at Glenelg and pursue that part of my dream but you never know," he said.
"I thought I'd throw it out there and people buy a lotto ticket so I guess I'm a chance."
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