Brandon Ellis is a young man who seems hell-bent on making the most of every second in the big time.

Richmond’s 19-year-old first pick in the 2011 National Draft (No. 15 overall) enjoyed an outstanding debut season for the Tigers, playing 21 of a possible 22 games.

After working hard in his first pre-season, Ellis slotted straight into the senior team for the opening match of the season against Carlton, and hardly looked like giving up his spot all year.

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He embraced the challenge of cutting his teeth in the backline, where he combined determined defending with dash and clinical skills.

When he got his chance to roam through the midfield, he looked comfortable and confident.

The result was an average of 16 disposals per match, and a display of maturity beyond his years, both on and off the field.

Initially, he could hardly believe he would be sharing the MCG with players he looked up to as a junior.

“I remember a few years ago walking through the gates to watch, but now I drive in and get to go into the dressing room with my team now, the Richmond Footy Club. I can’t really explain it,” he said.

“My goal at the start of the year was to play a few games. One or two would have been ideal, I would have been happy with that.”

But while his confidence grew with every week, his mindset continued to shift.

Increasingly, he was no longer happy just getting a game, as most youngsters would be excused for wanting. He wanted more.

Halfway through the season, Ellis made a phone call to senior coach Damien Hardwick. He wanted to know how he could get better – how to contribute to the team more than he already was.

“I’ve got high expectations of myself. I always want to improve. I called Damien and asked him how I could do that,” he said.

“I was sick of being an average player. I wanted to take my game to the next level. We sat down and he told me what I needed to do.

“I just want to get the best out of myself…to try and give as much to the team as possible.”

Just a few weeks after that phone call, Ellis won a nomination for the AFL’s Rising Star Award, in Round 17, after three consecutive matches where he collected 20 or more touches.

He finished the season strongly, completing one of the biggest success stories for the Tigers in 2012.