WITH the retirement of Michael Doughty after Adelaide's narrow loss to Hawthorn in last year's preliminary final it was clear; Luke Brown's time had arrived.
Having played most of season 2012 in the SANFL with Norwood as Doughty's heir, Brown was offered a few tastes at the highest level – making his AFL debut in round 16 against GWS.
The 181cm small defender returned to the Redlegs for the end of the season and played a crucial role in securing the club its first premiership since 1997.
In the background, Doughty shared trade secrets with his apprentice – readying Brown to take his place. The 20-year-old told AFL.com.au of the respect he has for the recently retired 231-gamer.
"Michael was a great leader for defenders in general and everyone around here," Brown said.
"The way he went about it and the way he went through his career – hard at it, helping out his teammates; I admire him a lot.
"The career he had was amazing, so to play anywhere close to the level he did would be exceptional for me."
Filling the shoes of one of the most underrated defenders in AFL football won't be an easy task and Brown's no dummy – he knows he still has a lot to learn.
But thanks largely to a select few, namely Doughty, Crows defence coach Darren Milburn and Brown's coach at Norwood Nathan Bassett, he said he had the confidence he needed to take over from where 'Dogga' left off.
"In my first year at Norwood (2011), Nathan gave me the confidence to play my way and run with the ball and do what I can," Brown said.
"That was probably why I had a such a good year and got drafted – the confidence to play week in week out with the Redlegs.
"I was in a bit of contact with him (Bassett) throughout last year just trying to figure out how to take the next step and he was really helpful, just like Michael Doughty and Darren Milburn."
Brown has more experience than you might expect of a youngster so soon into his AFL career.
As well as his three AFL games, his SANFL premiership medallion is proof of what is required to forge ultimate success in football.
The lesson isn't lost on him either; he predicted winning the flag would become a vital event in his development.
"Over the last few years at Norwood there was a lot of build up (to the premiership) getting structures right and that sort of thing and there was a lot of hard work to get there," he said.
"I didn't play, but they lost the grand final in 2010 and the year after that we lost the preliminary final, so the whole experience of a premiership will hold me in good stead for the rest of my career I reckon."
While he's Doughty's logical replacement in Adelaide's backline, Brown knows he hasn't been given a golden selection ticket.
Matthew Jaensch, Brodie Martin and Richard Tambling are all said to be in the running for the vacancy and all exhibited sensational form in 2012; Tambling even won Sturt's best and fairest.
Competition for spots is fierce, as it was last year; a great sign according to Brown.
"I've been talking to Sando about the position a little bit and he knows what I want to do and how I want to get it, but he also said I had to compete with those players," he said.
"I know that and it's good for the club obviously because whoever's in the side is going to have to play well to keep it.
"If we keep doing that I don't see why we can't have another successful year as a defensive group and as a team."