Arriving at an AFL club can often be daunting for draftees, especially with the weight of expectation as a first round pick.
Gaining the respect of your more senior teammates can be a challenge of its own, but it’s something that Shaun Atley never struggled with, according to games record-holder, Brent Harvey.
“He (Atley) came into the football club as a very quiet boy,” Harvey told North Media.
“He put his head down and worked as hard as he possibly could.
“The best way to earn respect as a young guy isn’t to talk, it’s to walk the walk; to train really hard.
“To be honest, there hasn’t be once that I’ve ever questioned his commitment to the club.
“Sometimes young guys come in and you don’t have that level of trust, but he’s had that from the start.”
Atley will play his 200th game this weekend, having missed just nine games since his debut.
And Harvey puts this down to his meticulous preparation and approach to training.
“Everything he does is of the highest standard,” Harvey added.
“When your preparation is good and you train hard, you reap the benefits, which he’s done. He’s got a really high standard of training, and he takes that into games. If it’s in the gym or on the track, he’s always worked really hard.
“He’s always had the lowest skinfolds, so he clearly looks after himself away from the club as well.”
He may not receive many plaudits from outside North, but Harvey insists Atley is highly valued.
“We certainly value him and know what he’s capable of and and what he brings to the team,” Harvey stated.
“He doesn’t worry about possessions or his game, he just worries about his role and the team.”
Like Harvey was to Atley before him, the famous number 29 believes the 27-year-old is the perfect role model for North’s next generation.
“He’s a completely different leader to guys like Jack Ziebell, Robbie Tarrant and Shaun Higgins,” Harvey said.
“He reminds me of an old-school player in that he never misses a session. He’s always out on the track. I’ve been really impressed by him, and have loved watching him evolve as a person and as a player.
“He’s getting more confident as a leader, and I think that’s starting to come out more. I’m humbled that he says he modelled his training on me, and it’s a nice feeling knowing that I’ve helped him in his career.”
Now in his 10th season , Harvey believes Atley still has a long way to go.
“He’s hit 200 very quickly,” he said.
“It depends on how long seasons are in the future, but without cursing him I expect him to hit 300, at least. In my opinion, footballers are at their peak around 26-29, so he’s just hitting that now.
“300 is a pretty exclusive club, and I’m pretty certain he’ll get there. His speed is his strength, so as long as keeps that he will be able to play as long as he wants. And he doesn’t look like he’s slowing down.”