HARLEY Reid notices the difference.

When he's in Tongala, a small town of a few thousand people in northern Victoria, Reid is the teenager with the hair behind his ears who worked at the till at the local pub with a clever quip and relaxed demeanour. 

When he arrives in Melbourne, usually for under-18s games or as part of his program this season, Reid is a headline act, the anointed No.1 pick of this year's AFL Draft and a headband-wearing, fend-off producing highlights machine who gets asked for photos and autographs despite only recently turning 18 and not yet being on an AFL list.

But if you think it's been overwhelming for Reid, here's when you get to know him a little better.  

"Being a little rural community boy down the country, a bit of a bogan, it doesn't really get to me and it doesn't really feel real. It's good there for me with the support everyone shows me. I really appreciate where I am," Reid told AFL.com.au's draft and trade show Gettable.

"It doesn't really feel real. When [the draft] happens I'll probably feel more of the reality. I look back a couple of years and you see all the hype around (Nick) Daicos and now you realise it's you but you still don't feel like it's you.

"It's weird, when I come to Melbourne it's a lot, it's real. But when I'm back home it's just the normal Harley, and I love having the balance between those."

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The Harley hype has reached huge levels for a reason.

The Bendigo Pioneers product has pieced together a brilliant draft CV: he was an All-Australian last year as a bottom-ager for Vic Country, winning games for his team as a marking defender and also influencing them in attack; he has dominated for the Pioneers in Victoria's under-18 competition; he was best afield for the AFL Academy against Port Adelaide's SANFL side and was on track to do the same last week against Carlton's VFL team before concussion; and he looked at ease in the Blues' VFL team for a couple of games before that.

He even stood out when he was training at Essendon in the pre-season and was thrown into the midfield during some match simulation drills.

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At 185cm and 85 kilos, Reid has strength, power and brilliance with the ball and can fly for marks, kick goals and step up when a game is on the line.

He played through the midfield and then across half-back for the Blues in his VFL stint and said the mixing of positions had been enjoyable.

"It was good to take on new roles. There's a lot of tactics that go into it so learning that took me a bit to get used to. That first game took me a bit to find my feet but the second game I felt like I belonged and I created a few good relationships over two weeks so I really enjoyed it," he said.

"I just love the challenge, playing against bigger bodies, more hyped people. Nobody really knew who I was and I wanted to make a stance and those are the moments I love when the game's on the line like a Toby Greene and Dusty Martin, they're there when the game's there to be won."

Harley Reid (right) with Riley Beveridge and Cal Twomey on the set of Gettable. Picture: AFL Photos

Three clubs – Hawthorn, West Coast and North Melbourne – have what has been dubbed 'The need for Reid', with Sunday's clash between the Hawks and Eagles set to be a shaper in the wooden spoon chase. There are also expected to be big offers come for the pick, with three first-round selections likely to be thrown at whoever holds the choice at the end of the home and away season.

Reid, a Geelong fan, is laidback about the possibilities and said he had not spent much time perusing the ladder despite the discussion. "We're not even mid-season yet so there's still a long way to go," he said.

But already, he has a signature move: the 'EFO' (effective fend-off). Reid practices jiu jitsu and is tough to bring to ground, but makes it harder for opponents by planting his hand in their chest and evading tackles, opening up space and creating from there. Sometimes, he even goes looking for a fend-off opportunity.

Harley Reid fends off a Port Adelaide Magpies player during the game on April 15, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

"It makes you feel good," he said. "[In those times] I felt like the game was getting a bit boring so I'd need to fire it up."