CLAYTON star Aaron Purvis is the first to admit he underestimated the talent in the Southern Football League.
The 22 year old was recruited to the Clays from Victorian Football League club Casey Scorpions in the lead-up to the SFL season and after kicking a few goals in the opening few matches found himself underperforming against other division 1 sides.
The former Rowville junior was then pushed into the midfield by his coach, Ben McGee, and in his own words, Purvis never looked back.
Purvis claimed the division 1 best and fairest award, the Kingsley Ellis Medal, last Friday, beating St Paul's Andrew Gilbert by a vote, 24 votes to 23.
Purvis polled just two votes in the opening seven matches of the season before his move into the midfield and a lift in performance from the Clays led to Purvis taking home 22 votes in the final 10 rounds.
He called his medal win "overwhelming" and has already signed with the Clays for next season, when he will also take on the captaincy.
"I thought a few other guys had done the job and would beat me," he said.
"It was a bit of a surprise and overwhelming, to be honest."
Purvis said he had not expected the league to be as physical as it was, something which forced him to readjust his mindset heading into matches.
"I underestimated the level of the competition," he said.
"I didn't expect it to be as physical as it was. I thought there would be a significant drop in the level of the matches but I soon realised there is no mucking around in this league.
"It might not be as skilful as the VFL but the bodies are just as big and you need to be mentally and physically tougher than in some other competitions."
Purves paid tribute to McGee for pushing him back into the midfield, a role he played in junior football before moving into the forward line at higher levels.
"Ben knew I played in midfield before going to the VFL," he said.
"He put me onto the ball and let me do what I needed to do.
"We put together a formidable midfield and that was that."
McGee said Purvis brought a professional mindset to the club doing everything he could to best prepare for each match.
Purvis thanked the Clays for allowing him a flexible training schedule as he works for Armourguard and works a lot of afterhours shifts.
"It was going to be hard to get to Casey Fields for training four days a week," he said.
"So Ben allowed me that leniency with training so if I missed a Tuesday or a Thursday I could make it up, even if it meant I was sometimes training at 11pm at night."