After a stellar junior career, Clayton Gay had a rude shock at under 16 level, which ultimately led him to changing his path, leading to the AFL Draft.

“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” 

That lesson, preached by basketballer Kevin Durant, was learned by Clayton Gay as a 16-year-old. 

The versatile Dandenong Stingrays prospect played at the under-16 national championships on the Gold Coast in 2018.

But the initial honour of the call up was replaced with disappointment following two sub-par performances, including a one disposal game. 

“It was a bit of a wake-up call that put me on the right path,” Gay said. 

“[The] game didn’t go to plan as I hoped it would.

“It gave me a good indication of where I needed to be. 

“Going into it I didn’t really have the right mindset of how hard I needed to work, and my training standards weren’t up to scratch.  

“I thought it was going to be a bit easier than it was.

An understandable sentiment for Gay, having won seven consecutive junior – and two league – best-and-fairest awards for local side Balnarring. 

Gay’s always been able to produce freakish feats on the footy field.

A snap around the body, burst from a stoppage, or dash from halfback, he can fill many roles.

But to excel, he couldn’t rest on his flair alone. 

“Obviously local and playing the best in the world is a massive difference so I sort of got hit in the face,” Gay said. 

So, to get up to scratch the talent worked hard. 

That begun with training for a half-marathon with his cousin and building his endurance at the end of 2018. 

“He just asked as a joke to me ‘do you wanna run a half-marathon?’ and I thought yeah alright and then we trained for six or seven weeks,” he said.

“I think that helped me. I was not at a good enough standard so it helped me get a base I could work off to keep improving over the pre-season.” 

Gay was running as far as 15kms by the end of the regime and felt himself being able to cover the ground far easier going into his bottom-aged season. 

He showed flashes of his excitement last season, but still identified endurance as an area of improvement.

His intensity at training lifted in preseason and he has put an emphasis on building his tank during lockdown in order to stay in contests longer.

“My main focus has been my running so I’m about three quarters through a running program now,” he said.

“In different sessions I do ten k’s and then others are 6-8.” 

“Working under fatigue has been a focus as well. If there was a game, I want to be able to still maintain a good level of skill and execution while under fatigue.” 

Now with a combination of hard work, talent, the 18-year-old’s name is one to listen for on draft night. 

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