LONG before he officially joined Greater Western Sydney as its first selection at the 2012 NAB AFL Draft, Lachie Whitfield had a clear idea he was headed there.
Whitfield was pegged as the likely No.1 choice at the start of the 2011 season, nearly two years before he would be eligible to join a club and a year before the Giants were in the competition.
But it was midway through his draft season when the Giants confirmed they were likely to pick him if they finished last and held the No.1 selection.
After that, Whitfeld, who grew up in Mt Martha, south-east of Melbourne and played for Dandenong in the TAC Cup, started watching the club's fortunes even closer, knowing he was a strong chance to end up there.
"I kind of wanted to go to the Giants [and was] barracking for them a year out from getting there because I'd played with a lot of mates who were already up there," Whitfield told AFL.com.au's series, Under the Spotlight.
"But it wasn't really until the Gold Coast and Giants match [in 2012] … I remember sitting at a pub with a couple of my mates watching it on the big screen and I was really barracking hard for the Giants to lose.
"I wanted them to lose because the Giants had already told me, 'If we come last you're a fair chance to be coming to us'.
"That process stepped up a gear at the NAB AFL Draft Combine, when the Giants informed Whitfield he would start his career in western Sydney. Knowing where he was headed meant the teenager's path to the draft in late November was a lot less stressful than that of his peers.
"Throughout the year I kept tabs with the Giants and come the draft camp where everyone's meeting with all 18 clubs, I just popped in and saw three – Gold Coast, Melbourne and the Giants," he said.
"They were all very different and very direct, so that was a bit of an eye-opener for me. But the Giants told me that day they were going to take me as the No. 1."
Making it a slightly easier transition into the AFL world as an early draft choice was the fact he went to the Giants, a young, new club overflowing with young, new players.
Whitfield, a hard-running, smart and skillful wingman, handled it well. He played 19 games in his first season in 2013, and backed it up with another 11 in 2014, despite foot and shoulder injuries. The environment has helped him flourish.
"The best thing about being a No. 1 draft pick at the Giants is living in Sydney and being away from Melbourne," he said.
"It's actually so crazy the difference in how you walk the streets of Melbourne and you get weird looks – compared to Sydney, where no one would even turn an eye at you.
"I'm very, very happy and content in Sydney and I don't think I'll be coming back to Melbourne any time soon."