“Jason has the hallmarks of a senior [AFL] player.”

Praise such as this, from AFL coaching games record-holder Mick Malthouse, doesn’t come much higher.

Malthouse, now on the television show The Recruit, which gives footballers the chance to win an AFL rookie contract, was impressed with what he saw in Sunbury’s Jason Williams during filming.

But The Recruit experience ended up being bittersweet for Williams.

After winning high praise from Malthouse and former AFL player Ben Dixon, Williams ruptured a ligament in his thumb in the second episode – an injury that had him delisted from the show.

“[Being on the show] was one of the best experiences I’ve had,” Williams told

Star Weekly. “It opened my eyes to what it takes to get to the elite level, which is my dream and goal in the short term.

“The most disappointing thing was knowing I’d done everything to put my best foot forward and was going out of the show for reasons I couldn’t control.”

Williams, 22, said that in the past he would have allowed a setback like this to derail him.

As a promising young player with the Calder Cannons, Williams was talked about as a possible draft prospect. But, by his own admission, he took it all for granted.

After moving to VFL club Port Melbourne and playing in a grand final, Williams says his life started to fall apart and he lost his love for football. He suffered depression and gave the game away.

But, since joining Riddell District Football League side Diggers Rest in 2014 he’s rediscovered his passion and says he’s determined the latest setback won’t stop him.

“Hearing that sort of feedback [from Malthouse] only added to my determination,” Williams said.

“He’s arguably the greatest coach in AFL history and if someone like him has seen these things, I’m not far off where I want to be.

“In the past I would have got really worried and got down. It’s about getting out there and enjoying my football.”

Williams said Malthouse had been a good mentor on and off the field. He’s still in contact with him and Dixon.

It has been an up and down year for Williams on field with Port Melbourne and, lately, Diggers Rest.

“I couldn’t do anything and wasted the pre-season because of my injury,” he said.

“I’m not satisfied with this year. It’s just been a test for me … When I’m at my best I can play senior VFL footy.”

Williams has played one senior VFL match this season and his hoping to push back into the side ahead of finals.

Both Port Melbourne’s reserves and seniors sides are in the finals mix and Williams is keen to play a part. Depending on those commitments, a role in trying to help Diggers Rest win a premiership is also high on the list.

The Burras who have lost the last three grand finals, currently sit undefeated.

“It’s my home club and I love them and it would mean the absolute world to them to win the premiership.”