Saturday night was definitely one of the better wins I’ve been a part of. We actually have a decent record at Adelaide Oval so it was nice to continue that.
A lot has changed since I first arrived at the club, that’s for sure. We’re a lot more professional now compared to back in 2012. We’ve gone to the draft and selected plenty of good young players like Clayton Oliver, Christian Salem and Christian Petracca, then brought in players like Dom Tyson and Bernie Vince as well.
The professionalism has increased and the awareness around what it takes to play consistent and solid football each week has come a long way with that.
The morale is great. Gone are the days when the feeling fluctuates depending on whether we win or lose, which is a great sign of where the club is going.
If we lost it was almost like a funeral and the meetings would go for three times longer and we’d dissect everything. Now, the weeks look the same whether we win or lose.
This sounds very cliché, but I think I’ve been playing my role for the team and delivered upon what the coaching staff has asked. I’m not expected to win the hit-outs, but I am expected to nullify the opposing ruckman and make sure that he doesn’t get clean hits.
I’ve been trying to use my running power around the ground and help at ground level also. There’s plenty to improve on still.
Despite a limited pre-season, the coaches provided me with plenty of confidence. Both Brendan McCartney and Simon Goodwin told me that if I keep working hard and get some form going, I’d get a chance at some point.
Basically, I just needed to make sure that if I was called upon I was ready to go. That’s the belief they gave me at the start of pre-season. It’s bad luck that we’ve had the injuries, but the confidence was instilled in me and I’ve taken the chance.
I had a shoulder reconstruction over the pre-season and came back a little bit heavy, so Simon Goodwin sat me down and said, ‘you want to put a jumper on for this club then get down to the weight you need to be at.’
He told me that the way I was at the time wasn’t going to help the team and that I was probably being a bad teammate. The role that they needed me to play required me to be lighter and agile and so the challenge was set.
I could either lie down and play the year in the VFL or go to the next level. I certainly took that feedback on board and worked really hard, in particular becoming strict on my diet. Getting that weight off has helped me to get around the ground.
To get there, I basically halved my calorie intake and was doing five or six off-leg sessions in the pre-season.
Normally I would have just gone for extra runs and then come training, I would have been lethargic and flat. The new method allowed me to do extra work but still perform on the training track which was very important.
I lost 10 kilos in five weeks and after that, I resumed training with the main group.
Footy environments can be harsh at times, and coaches expect a lot of their players but it shows that they care.
The concern is when they don’t talk to you, that’s when you’re in trouble. Personally, I shouldn’t need to be prodded to perform better, but it’s nice that they thought I was valuable enough to take the tough approach.
Footy is as competitive as it gets and you never want to be told that you’re not a good teammate, but that’s what I needed. You either get angry, or rise to the occasion.
The way I came into the AFL system probably helped me with the recent situation. I’ve worked 9-5 jobs, I’ve got up early and worked 10-hour days and then gone to training and played footy over the weekend. I know what the outside world is like and I’m thankful that I got drafted a little bit older than most players do. It makes you appreciate things a bit more.
The way Melbourne is set up with the development coaches and our game plan suits me. The way we want to play is clear and concise, so when we get in those situations it becomes automatic. All of that development, the way I’m playing and the confidence I’m feeling is because of the coaches and the work they have put in.
Even though I’m 30, I feel younger and that I have plenty more to give at AFL level.
Brendan McCartney has definitely had the biggest impact on my game. He has tried to develop my game from a kick and mark player to one that can follow up, pressure, play strong in one-on-one contests and get over and help my teammates out.
The game of football is 120 minutes, and I might only get the ball in my hand for a minute, so what am I doing for the other 119 minutes? What can I do to help a teammate?
He sees the game differently to other people. He doesn’t care about basic stats, kicks and handballs, he is more concerned with the style you’re playing and how hard you’re working. He’s an honest coach who lets you know how well you’re traveling and is very thorough when it comes to game reviews.
It’s great for people to like you, even when you have a bad game. It’s nice to have a strong following and even a cult following if you will, but I also don’t care too much if people are saying negative things about me.
I’ve heard it all: I’m old, I’m a list clogger, the list goes on, but it doesn’t faze me whatsoever. I only worry about my teammates and coaches and how they feel.
Although I’m now seven years into an AFL career, I’m still learning something new about the game, just like an 18-year-old. If I keep developing and learning, I can only get better and my game will progress further.