JAKE Aarts can’t wait to swap his nail bag and hammer for a pair of footy boots and a mouthguard, with six years of toiling away in the VFL finally paying off for the new Richmond rookie.

The 24-year-old has served a lengthy apprenticeship, playing first for the now-defunct Bendigo back in 2013-14 and then for the Tigers’ own VFL team from 2015-18.

He’s paired the part-time football schedule with work as a qualified carpenter, something he’ll shelve after being welcomed onto the Tigers’ AFL roster for 2019 via pick No.16 in Friday’s NAB AFL Rookie Draft.

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“I was on the tools every day, working all day and then coming to training … long hours, long days,” Aarts said on Tuesday at Punt Road.

“I was used to it so I just kept working hard and now I’m here.

“I’ll put the nail bag down for a bit now.”

The super fit small forward admitted it had been a surreal experience to arrive back at the club this week, familiar with the surroundings but with a whole new outlook.

As he fronted the media on day two of pre-season for the new crop of Tigers, he said his experiences at the club over the last four years had already made his transition easier.

Considered a leader within the VFL team, he said he was keen to help the four draftees – Riley Collier-Dawkins, Jack Ross, Fraser Turner and Luke English – find their feet.

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“It’s different for me, I’ve come in for my first day yesterday and I’m saying g’day to all the boys that I already know,” he said.

“It’s different for the other draftees, they’re introduced as new players.

“I’m just trying to help the younger boys get to know everyone as well and if I can help them, it will go a long way to helping them become good players and people as well.”

Aarts doesn’t feel like he did anything remarkable across his 16 VFL games this season, nor does he really know what changed for him in his sixth season at the level.

But the high-pressure forward from Beaconsfield knew something was working when his phone started to ring during the year, which is something that hadn’t happened before.

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“I had a couple of calls mid-year that got my hopes up a little bit and sort of drove me to keep going and keep playing good footy,” he said.

“Once the interest started coming in, I thought, ‘Geez, something could happen here’.

“I haven’t done anything a lot different, but I was obviously doing something different that they liked.”

As each year came and went and he wasn’t offered a spot on an AFL list, Aarts conceded there were times where he wondered if it was all worth it.

But his persistent work ethic, which has been heralded by the Tigers, appears to be what’s made 2018 the exception.

“I don’t know what kept me going, there were times when I sort of questioned it,” he said.

“I just kept wanting to do the best I could every year and putting one foot in front of the other.

“There wasn’t something that stood out to me; consistency and hard work are some things I pride myself on day in day out, with anything I do in life.

“It’s probably one thing that got me through – hard work.”

Aarts is one of three listed Richmond rookies along with the re-drafted Jacob Townsend and Mabior Chol, with ex-Saint and Sun Maverick Weller and possibly Perth midfielder Sydney Stack to be offered the last two spots via the new supplemental selection rules after December 1.