Nathan Wilson first started kicking a footy around at the age of five down at Mandurah’s Rushton Park.
He played his Auskick in the Peel region and joined the Mandurah Centrals for his junior days under coach Matt Lowry.
Fast forward 19 years and the local lad has built a reputation as one of the AFL’s toughest defenders and cemented his place in a side challenging for a premiership at the top level.
But despite how far he’s come, the GWS Giant remains humble, insisting he’s got a ways to go before reaching his desired level.
“I think I’ve had a really good year so far this season. Obviously we’re on top and that’s where you want to be, but I think I’ve still got some improving to do,” Wilson said.
“We had the bye two weeks ago and my two weeks before that probably weren’t great.
“That sort of prompted me to have a look at myself and assess where I was at, and I think I played pretty well coming back against Brisbane.”
Wilson was pre-listed by the Giants as a 17-year-old in 2010 after a number of impressive performances at Peel Thunder.
He arrived at the club weighing around 65 kilograms, and spent his first days as an AFL player in the gym.
“When I first arrived it was a big change for me, and really scary as a 17-year-old kid,” he said.
“To go from Mandurah and pack up my things pretty quickly to move to Sydney was a big change, but all I could do was embrace it and get on the training track.”
And train he did.
Wilson’s determination saw him land a spot in the side, in a role he relished in learning under experienced AFL heads like Heath Shaw and Phil Davis.
He now registers at 82kg, is a contender for the all-Australian squad and gives forwards nightmares week in, week out.
The skillful defender also played in his first finals campaign in 2016, helping GWS reach a preliminary final where they fell short of the eventual premiers, the Western Bulldogs, by one straight kick.
Now Wilson has moved on, and says the entire team has their focus fixed squarely on what is to come in 2017.
“I guess in a way last year’s preliminary final against the Dogs still haunts us and it probably always will, but that’s in the past,” he said.
“It’s round 14 now and we’re on top, so we have to keep looking forward and thinking about the games to come this season.”
Wilson has been with the Giants since their inception to the AFL, struggling through a number of growing pains along the way.
Now, he is hoping to help the side achieve “something special”.
“We struggled a lot as a team of young kids early, so to be able to see the results and compete the way we’re competing now is fantastic,” he said.
“There’s a lot of belief in our playing group that we can achieve something special.”