High on the list of priorities for the Western Bulldogs was to secure young key position player Aaron Naughton on a long term deal.
Naughton and the Bulldogs came to an agreement that will see the 19-year-old stay on at the kennel until at least the end of the 2024 AFL season.
It is a coup for the Bulldogs because athletic key position players are so hard to find, particularly those with an ability to swing forward or back depending on the team’s needs.
Naughton has already proven that he can anchor the club’s backline and is showing positive signs as a target player in the forward line.
His elite spoiling, close checking one-on-one and reading of the play in a defensive sense has impressed in such a short space of time, while he could have a future as a key forward because of his speed off the mark on the lead, ability to mark the ball at the highest point and a reliable set shot.
Bulldogs list manager Sam Power was thrilled to have Naughton’s locked away on a long term contract to ward off any advances from opposition clubs.
“Aaron is only in his second year at AFL level and is already a critical member of our team,” Power said. “He clearly has a bright future in the game and is only going to keep improving.
“His competitiveness, athleticism and ability to take contested marks make him an incredibly valuable player in today’s game.
“Finishing fourth in our best and fairest last season as a first-year player was an outstanding effort, and we have been excited by the way he can compete at both ends of the ground.
“Pleasingly, this has been a relatively quick process. It’s no surprise we were keen to lock Aaron in long-term, and the negotiations with his manager Andrew McDougall went really smoothly.
“We believe this re-signing demonstrates Aaron’s belief in the Club and where we are heading, and the environment that’s been created by the coaching group and playing group.”
Naughton arrived at the Western Bulldogs with pick nine in the 2017 AFL draft.
After just 21 games in the big league, he is drawing rave reviews from the experts.
Naughton wanted to “repay the faith” the Bulldogs showed in him when they drafted him.
“I’m just loving it here at the footy club, so there was no reason not to sign up for an extension,” he said. “We’re a really young side that are really starting to jell together.
“I think we’ve already shown early in the year that when we do bring our best footy, it’s pretty exciting to watch and it’s good fun to go out there and play.
“Where I want to be in a couple of years, is just a player that my teammates can rely on, that every week they know what they’re going to get out of me – whether that’s a strong contest up forward, or to be able to lock down a forward down back.
“It’s pretty special to me to be able to live out what I dreamed of as a kid.
“For the Bulldogs to give me the opportunity to play for their club, I just want to repay that faith.”
Power has been busy in recent times locking away some of the Western Bulldogs future stars.
Naughton joins Marcus Bontempelli, Lachie Hunter, Patrick Lipinski, Lachie Young and Fergus Greene in committing to the club.