FACING off against an AFL quality ruckman is a daunting challenge at any time, let only in your first few games in the VFL.
But for the Casey Demons new ruckman Liam Buxton, he is not only enjoying the challenge but thriving.
“It has been slightly different being the underdog after playing local footy,” Buxton told Melbourne Media.
“But I’m enjoying it, these other ruckmen don’t know who I am.
“So, I take that into the game … I try to ignore the fact that my opponents are pretty experienced in AFL systems and I just play my game.”
The 22-year-old has been a revelation in the early season embracing the role of the underdog.
But if it wasn’t for a chance phone call by an old friend piquing his interests, then our new dominant ruckman may not be wearing the red and blue at all.
“I have some history with [Head of Football] Garry O’Sullivan, and it was a bit of a stab in the dark by him to give me a call,” Buxton said.
“They wanted to see if I was interested in playing for Casey … I loved Twig straightaway when I met him.
“So, I thought I would give it a go and here we are.”
Buxton has proved to be one of the Demons best acquisitions of the early season so far.
The new recruit has been able to fit seamlessly into the Casey system and the Club.
“I’m enjoying it a lot,” Buxton said of being with Casey.
“In the first few weeks just noticing the vibe of the Club and the professionalism.
“We have a genuine group of guys who just love football … It has made it pretty easy to fit in.”
Even head coach Jade Rawlings has been quick to sing the praises of the popular young man and the impact he has made on the team.
“Liam is improving enormously with his ruck skills, and game awareness,” Rawings said.
“The players of Casey, and the MFC listed players, just love playing with him.”
But it isn’t just the players who have been taken with him.
Buxton has quickly become a crowd favourite down at Casey Fields.
Sporting a tattoo sleeve down his right arm, standing around 195cm, and tipping the scales at over 100kg, the words “man mountain” come to mind.
But one other element of Buxton’s game catching the eye of the Demons faithful is the big man’s excellent high-flying marking.
“He has been very, very important for us,” Rawlings said.
“His marking is improving, and he is showing he can go forward and kick goals.”
Unlike the imposing ruckman of yesteryears, Buxton is a truly a new age big man.
Not only is he providing a massive physical presence, but he is showcasing his athleticism all over the field.
After running his opponents ragged in recent weeks, Buxton was rewarded for his efforts by pushing forwards and kicking key goals.
“Opposition ruckman don’t always like to chase you from one end to another, so it’s something I like to keep in my head on the day,” Buxton said.
“You have to work to be in the right spot … Sometimes you get lucky and your teammates find you.
“if you get to kick the goal then happy days.”
The ability to be able to press forwards and kick goals is becoming a staple of Buxton’s game which continues to evolve over his career.
Starring for the Vermont Eagles in the Eastern Football League in his youth, Buxton earned a brief stint with the Northern Blues in 2016, but did not get a chance to make an impact.
After another two stellar seasons for Vermont, Buxton took his talents to the Northern Territory Football League this past Summer.
Playing for one of his Eagles coaches at the Tiwi Bombers, the competition helped Buxton broaden his game and give him a new experience which he relished.
“I got to play a handful of games in the NTFL which I loved,” Buxton said.
“I thought it was great, playing with a different type of team, a different style and in a different climate … it was really enjoyable.”
The stint up north helped build Buxton’s confidence in his game and his abilities, as he continues to focus on being the best footballer he can be.
“My goal this season is to keep playing with confidence,” Buxton said.
“Embracing each game and each opponent … Taking it one game at a time.
“I know my opponent will probably be an AFL quality ruckman … So I take it game by game.
“I try and play my way … That is what works best for me so that is what I focus on.”
The laser focus is impressive from the young footballer who is just scraping the surface of what he can do on the football field.
And, if his early season form is anything to go by, then Liam Buxton is going to be a dominant Casey Demons ruckman for a long time to come.
Look for him soaring high above the pack at the next Casey game.