Callum Mills and Braeden Campbell are both proud graduates of the QBE Sydney Swans Academy and they credit the program for helping develop the perseverance to overcome the challenges that come with the task of being a professional AFL player.
Campbell, who was widely regarded as one of the hottest prospects in his age group, admits to struggling significantly throughout the 2020 season as the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to derail his preparations of AFL Draft.
But such was the dedication of Campbell that he knew the opportunity to become part of the Swans was one he couldn't let slip, and he credits the Academy for helping him through a challenging period early in his career.
"I was pretty fortunate to have a pretty good U17s year so that set me up pretty well for mu U18s season. As soon as we went into that first lockdown, and footy stopped...I went into my shell for the first three or four weeks," he said.
"I wasn't really talking to anyone and I wasn't really training. I was fortunate enough to find a training partner and find my way out of a pretty dark space.
"I slowly kept training and then i trained pretty hard and as COVID improved, could get more people around training.
"I think one of the biggest things I've got out of the Academy is how to get over challenges that come your way. Last year, I was faced with challenges and it's just how you find you way to get over them."
Campbell's understanding of how to stay positive in tough times was a valuable lesson that he is grateful for, and he had to put those lessons into practice in his first AFL season when he suffered his first serious injury.
It was a roller coaster start to his career after he enjoyed a memorable debut in Round 1 alongside Logan McDonald and Errol Gulden, which was followed by a NAB Rising Star nomination in Round 2 after he recorded 25 disposals against Adelaide.
"This year I started off really well and I was pretty happy with how I was going, and then i got hit with an injury and that was a challenge that was thrown my way," he said.
"There's always a way to get over things - that's my advice, just find a way. use people around you, I used Chris Smith (Head of the Sydney Swans Academy), I used my mum, I used my dad and all my friends around me.
"They helped me drive through all the challenges that get thrown your way - so don't think that you're in it by yourself."
For Mills, who has now well and truly cemented himself as one of the key cogs in the Swans midfield in 2021, the QBE Sydney Swans Academy played a significant role in igniting his passion for AFL.
Presented with a chance to pursue an AFL career at a young age, Mills says the 'enjoyment factor' of the program is what helps drive younger athletes through the challenges.
"I was playing a few sports when I was younger and I filled in for the Mosman Swans and was lucky enough to be spotted by Mark Drinkwater at one of the finals games," he said.
"He invited me to training and ever since then I loved the sport of AFL and loved the Academy.
"The fact the Swans were able to give me a pathway and show me the steps and directions that you need to take to be come a professional AFL player was really exciting."