Papley, Charlie, Eddie … The star scalps of an unheralded super stopper

CHARLIE Cameron and Tom Papley have more in common than just being All-Australian calibre small forwards.

They’ve both been quelled by St Kilda’s new super stopper in 2020.  

With 16 games to his name entering this season, Ben Paton’s reputation is growing by the week as he locks down on the opposition’s best small forward.

The unheralded 21-year-old defender has played all 13 games to date in the new-look Saints line-up with his scalps only growing in profile.

Keeping Carlton’s Eddie Betts to one goal in round five was followed by wins over Papley and Cameron, proving a major factor in the Saints’ bounce back up the ladder this year.

“It’s good that the players and coaches trust me to do those roles and it gives me a bit of belief,” Paton told AFL.com.au this week ahead of the Saints’ clash with Melbourne.

“You’ve got to manage what they (opponents) can do and get on top of their strengths, but you’ve got to know what strengths you’re bringing as well.

“It’s about not getting too worried (and thinking), ‘Oh they can do this, they can do that’, but believing in what you can do.”

BEN PATON’S 2020 SCALPS

 v minutesDisposals concededGoals conceded
Rd 5 v Eddie Betts6641
Rd 6 v Travis Colyer4250
Rd 7 v Tyson Stengle4260
Rd 9 v Tom Papley8571
Rd 11 v Gryan Miers4960
Rd 13 v Charlie Cameron5731

*Champion Data only recognises match-ups over 40 minutes

The third-year Saint credits the club’s increased emphasis on mindfulness in delivering added confidence and belief he has what it takes to succeed at the top level. 

Saints head of mental health and wellbeing Ben Robbins, who played 92 games for the Brisbane Bears, Lions and North Melbourne, crossed from the Roos ahead of this season.

“The mental side of things has been the biggest thing, (having) the belief you’re good enough to play AFL footy and just trying to believe you can do it,” Paton said.

“Our psychologist Benny Robbins has been awesome for us.

“He works with us every week, you can do stuff with him individually, but as a group he’s been really good thing in the mental side of the game and it’s probably what separates players and teams now.

“I do my own stuff (as well) to try and get the best out of myself.”

Since the end of last season, Paton’s path to becoming a mainstay in the Saints side has taken him to all corners of the globe and country.

A holiday in Thailand was followed by a visit to America with four teammates to get a headstart on pre-season at the EXOS human performance centre.

“We went to LA for a week… it was Nick Coffield, Doulton Langlands, Jack Billings, Oscar Clavarino and myself,” Paton said.

“It’s a company that deals with the NBA and NFL players in their off-season and guys that are about to get drafted,” Paton said.

“It’s that agility, footwork and speed stuff and it was awesome to spend some time there with those guys.”

A cultural trip to the Tiwi Islands was followed by a visit back home to the family beef and dairy farms in Tallangatta (near Wodonga) with bushfires raging nearby.

“There were a couple of days where it was a bit scary, but we were lucky in the end not to get burnt out,” he said.  

“I was there at the time through January when they started, and I was stuck there for a couple of weeks.”

A return to Melbourne began year three with housemate Jack Billings in what was only planned as a short-lived stopover when Paton was first drafted via pick 46 in the 2017 NAB AFL Draft.

“I was only meant to stay with him for a couple of weeks and move in with a host family or find someone else, but I must’ve done a few things right and he asked me to stay,” he said.

“I’ve probably slacked off a bit on the household stuff since, but he’s been really good for me.

“He’s been awesome and one of the (bigger) pros at the club and things like recovery and nutrition, he’s all over it.”

After a six-week dash home to work with his dad on the farms during the season shutdown, Paton’s return to Melbourne was short-lived before heading to the club’s the quarantine hub in Noosa.

On Saturday night the Murray Bushrangers product will head to Alice Springs to tackle the Demons with small forwards Kysaiah Pickett and Charlie Spargo in his sights. 

And after earning a one-year contract extension in 2018 on top of his initial two-year draft deal, Paton finds himself out of contract at season’s end.

His sharp form is expected to soon be rewarded with a new multi-year extension with Saints list boss James Gallagher beginning talks with Paton’s management in the past month.

SOURCE: Mitch Cleary, AFL.com.au