Sydney forward Tom Papley started the AFL season 404 goals behind Eddie Betts, but now stands alongside the Adelaide champion in a situation that would have been unthinkable six months ago.
Betts, the electrifying 12-season sharpshooter and Papley, the first-year Swan, are the joint leading goalkickers in the 2016 finals series with nine apiece.
Papley started with two majors in the qualifying final loss to GWS Giants, kicked a career-best four against Betts’s Adelaide in a semi-final and three in the preliminary final victory over Geelong.
Betts bagged six in a elimination final rout of North Melbourne and three in the loss to Sydney which ended the Crows finals campaign, which finished with the livewire forward kicking a career-best 75 goals.
Papley, who was an apprentice plumber before being picked up in the 2016 rookie draft, has kicked 29 goals this season, second highest at the Swans behind Lance Frankin.
“Paps is in his first year of football, you forget that,” Franklin told the Seven network.
“He kicked three this week and then last week kicked four. That’s an unbelievable effort by a first-year player to come in and hit the scoreboard like that.”
Papley, whose grandfathers Max Papley and Jeff Bray both played for South Melbourne in the 1960s, is still coming to terms with his meteoric rise.
“I spoke to him before the prelim last week and he was just shaking his head (when comparing) where he is now to where he was last year,” Swans’ back Nick Smith said.
“You can see his excitement and he’s just really enjoying his footy at the moment.”
For all the hoo-ha over his goalkicking exploits, Papley has always made forward pressure his biggest priority since breaking into the side.
“That’s what I work on the most,” Papley told AAP after kicking three goals on debut in the opening round against Collingwood.
“If I’m going to play in this side it’s what I’m going to play for – not to kick goals, just defensive pressure.”
LEADING GOALKICKERS IN THE 2016 AFL FINALS SERIES
*9 – Tom Papley^ (Syd), Eddie Betts (Ade)
*7 – Tory Dickson^ (WB), Clay Smith^ (WB)
*6 – Lance Franklin ^ (Syd), Tom Lynch (Ade)
^Club still involved in finals series