MELBOURNE has signed rookie success story Aaron vandenBerg for two years, tying him to the club until the end of 2017.
The 23-year-old was taken in the NAB AFL Rookie Draft from Canberra-based club Ainslie with the second pick behind St Kilda's Jack Sinclair.
vandenBerg played the first 10 games before suffering a hamstring injury in the Queen's Birthday clash against Collingwood, but is once again available for selection this week.
He told AFL.com.au he has enjoyed every minute so far and was rapt to be able to commit to the Demons.
"It's not every day you get paid to do what you love to do," vandenBerg said.
"The group I am around is a really good group, and I'm pretty excited about where they're heading as well."
He averaged 17.5 disposals and more than five tackles a game, bringing a hard, strong, aggressive presence to the stoppage, his effort particularly significant given he had to overcome a shoulder problem before joining full training.
He admits a full pre-season under his belt will help and says there are plenty of areas in which he can improve as he continues to work on being clean with the footy, making quick early decisions and his skills.
vandenBerg credited former Adelaide player Robert Shirley, who was an assistant at Ainslie after 151 games with the Crows, for simultaneously building in him both a belief that he had the talent to play AFL and that he needed to change his mindset to realise that talent.
After the Demons chose him, recruiting manager Jason Taylor told him to work hard, keep a level head and listen to the coaches before development coach Shannon Byrnes took him around the club.
"I was pretty taken by everything that was involved … from the amount of coaching and support staff, even the amount of footies on the ground," vandenBerg said.
He soon latched on to highly respected midfielder Daniel Cross and is trying to follow his lead.
"In my opinion, he's the most professional bloke at the club," vandenBerg said.
"I'm always trying to snag him to do some extra stuff after training."
Demons' football manager Josh Mahoney said the mature-age recruit had exceeded expectations, particularly as he arrived at the club with a shoulder injury, and through his willingness to listen and attack training had set up a solid foundation for an AFL career.
"Aaron plays the right way," Mahoney told AFL.com.au.
"He is competitive, loves to tackle and with his size and running ability compliments our midfield group. We look forward to Aaron continuing to develop his AFL attributes further."
vandenBerg said his initial approach hadn't changed.
"I needed to listen along the way and try to learn, week in week out, as much as I possibly could to get a go - and luckily I did," he said.