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VFL: Rippon’s ready

Nick Rippon still harbours ambitions to play at the highest level.

Despite being overlooked in the 2018 NAB AFL Draft, the accomplished midfielder has plans to use the disappointment as fuel to reach higher heights in 2019.

“I think every year, just improving yourself as a player and person,” Rippon told North Media.

“Within the group as a leader, you use your disappointment to drive the expectations and prove people wrong.”

The 24-year-old, who is often listed as the oldest player on game day for North Melbourne, excelled in his first year at Arden Street, claiming the inaugural John Law Medal as the best and fairest player for the clubs VFL side.

Seen as a natural leader, Rippon wants to set an example in more ways than one, particularly to the new faces that will join the squad ahead of the season proper.

“I’d love to [replicate my form],” he continued.

“It was a huge honour to win that award, there’s things I obviously want to work on this year as well to improve myself. Being a leader at the club, with such a young group, I’ll hopefully develop in that area as well.

“I guess it’s building a strong group and the relationships with the players and getting the core group together. I guess training standards and off-field standards as well.

“If you can lead by example on the track it’ll hopefully bring the young group together quicker.”

A total of 10 VFL players were picked up by AFL clubs during the off season, including four through the NAB AFL Rookie Draft.

Rippon admits that the increasing number of mature-age recruits coming from the state competition should provide motivation to future potential draftees currently on VFL lists.

“It should give players a lot of hope,” Rippon revealed.

“Especially the young guys coming through TAC Cup that miss out or don’t quite make it. There is a pathway there and for the blokes that put in the work, they’ll get picked up.”

Having already been put through his paces by newly appointed development coach and VFL player, Brendan Whitecross, Rippon hopes to improve his game under the watchful eye of the former Hawk.

“I had a quick chat with ‘Whitey’ (Brendan Whitecross),” he said.

“He’s good a wealth of knowledge and is a great servant to the game at AFL level. Obviously, his wealth of knowledge is going to be invaluable to the team this year.

“He’s already shown on the track. His standards, the way he goes about things and his professionalism, [which] will rub off on everyone else.”

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs