This time four years ago, talented, tall teenager Noah Balta, from TAC Cup team Calder Cannons, was attracting plenty of attention from AFL recruiters in the lead-up to the 2017 national draft. Balta had shot up the draft charts because of his impressive transition from key forward to key defender during the 2017 season. Here is an article at the time by Ryan Davidson of AFL Media about Balta’s exciting football development, followed by a couple of draft experts’ opinions of the young gun, who would subsequently be drafted by Richmond with its third pick (No. 25 overall) in the 2017 draft, and three years later become a Tigers premiership player.

Ryan Davidson, AFL Media

Every draft has a bolter – a prospect who comes from nowhere to be selected in the early rounds.

But the story of one of year’s outsiders has a twist, as he's gone from being a key forward prospect to one of the talent pool’s best key defenders – and his name is Balta. Noah Balta.

The Calder Cannons product with Croatian heritage played in attack right throughout junior football, but now he's likely to be selected in the first round of the AFL Draft on the form he’s shown down back.

“The clubs view me as a backman, they say backman straight away,” Balta said.

“I've played forward and ruck for most of my junior career, but I’ve enjoyed my time down back.”

While he was good enough to earn a spot in the AFL Academy on the back of his work in attack, Vic Metro coach Marty Allison tried the 18-year-old down back during the under-18 championships with promising results.

Renowned for his dash and athleticism, Balta ran with the idea.

“Marty told me he likes to put his best attacking players in defence, and his best defensive players in the forward line, so it's worked out well for me,” he said.

“Then I started to play more in defence with the Cannons later in the season, and I learnt more about positioning and the players I was playing on.

“The recruiters can now see that I’m coachable, and wherever I play on the ground, I’ll give 100 per cent.”

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Tall Tiger can play at both ends of the ground

Get to know our new versatile draftee, Noah Balta.

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AFL national talent football manager Michael Ablett says the 194cm Balta has an exciting mix of athleticism and upside that will have him firmly on recruiter’s radars.

At the National Combine, an impressive time of 8.38 in the agility testing was followed up by strong result of 6.50 in the 2km time trial.

“He’s got great versatility in that he can play both ends of the ground, where his athleticism allows him to play on both talls and smalls," Ablett said.

“He's got some work to do on his decision making when he does counter-attack, because he sometimes bites off more than he chews.

“He's not a big watcher of footy and doesn’t study the game, so that’s another area of the game he needs to improve.

“But the pleasing thing from an athletic perspective, there is plenty to work with.”

With the draft quickly approaching, Balta says he’s left little in the tank in his efforts to be selected on November 24 in Sydney and is taking a philosophical approach to achieving his dream.

“I've got a mix of excitement and nerves ahead of the draft, but you've got to take life as it comes,” he said.

“If I’m not good enough, I’m not good enough, because I know I've given it my best.”

Callum Twomey, AFL Media

“Balta enjoyed one of his best games of the season in his return to TAC Cup footy after the under-18 championships, when he gathered 31 disposals, 10 inside-50s and four tackles in a roaming role that also saw him play in the ruck at times.

“Balta's athleticism sets him apart. For a player of his size, he is quick off the mark and agile at ground level.

“Of all the roles he has played around the ground this season, it seems a spot as a key defender, who can boot the ball a long way, is his best go.”

Riley Beveridge, Fox Sports

“Balta doesn’t just have one of this year’s best draft names. He’s also a reliable key-position player who can occupy roles at either end of the field.

“He played in defence throughout the championships, where he held some important lockdown roles.

“At 194cm, he was able to intercept and showcase his speed in transition.

“However, it’s forward where he sees his future, kicking multiple goals in four of his last eight TAC Cup games.

“He also averaged 15 disposals and 4.3 marks per match with Calder.”