In all honesty, I would have laughed at someone if they had have told me I would play 200 AFL games at the start of my career, but my journey hasn’t come without its bumps along the way.
Having to sit on the sidelines last year was difficult — I went through so many ups and downs. There were more down times than anything else and it was difficult to get through the year. I guess when you have footy taken away from you like that you love it even more.
But I was lucky enough to have a lot of support around me from my family and friends as well as the club. It was probably the toughest year of my life from all perspectives. I’m just glad I had a lot of good people around me to help me get through it.
Once you get into the AFL you realise how hard it is and the first few years are a real eye opener. The training, commitment and dedication that you need to have to get up and work hard every day is amazing.
Looking back on my career I’m pleased to say I can believe how far I’ve come as a player and person. I’ve met some incredible people along the way, people who have helped mould me into the person I am today.
The support I’ve received from coaches, teammates and those who work at the club has been amazing, I love being involved in football.
Being drafted is something that I will never forget. I remember flying over to Melbourne with my parents for the draft which was held at Etihad and it all went so quick. The first six picks flew by and pick seven was Essendon – I had a gut feeling that I would be going there.
We didn’t speak too much before the draft because Carlton, Hawthorn and Collingwood all had picks before that point, so there was a bit of talk about me going to one of those clubs.
I look back on ANZAC Day 2009, where I won the ANZAC medal, as my best game for Essendon. David Hille went down with a knee injury and I remember Matty Knights telling me I was going to ruck all day. At the time, I thought to myself that I had to get in there and do it for the team and luckily enough we came out victors.
That was the year I thought I matured a lot as a player. In your first few seasons as an AFL player, you’re spending a lot of time developing and that game made me realise I belonged at the top level. It made me feel as if I was pushing my career in the right direction.
Essendon did a lot for my career, I had a lot of influential coaches who helped me learn and develop. I played a heap of different positions at the club which gave me gain a greater understanding of the game.
Personally, I felt lucky to play with the likes of James Hird, Matthew Lloyd, Scott Lucas and Dean Rioli because watching these champions of the game up close was a key for factor in my development as a young player.
The move to Port Adelaide at the end of the 2014 has been huge for my career. But it has been especially great for my family — we went through some hard times for a while there. We’ve started fresh and they are enjoying their time in Adelaide.
As mentioned above, having last year off was hard but the support Ken Hinkley and the team have in me to produce quality football gives me great confidence. I grew even more excited to be returning as the days grew closer.
Going to the club at midnight on the day in which I could return was a bit of a light-hearted joke between myself and Kenny. I wanted to get back to the club to see all my teammates and all the wonderful people.
Right now, Kenny is the biggest influence on my career, we’ve got to a point where we both know what I can bring to the side.
He has given me a lot of confidence this season by providing me with the opportunity to become the club’s number one ruck. He and I agree that’s where I play my best footy, that’s why I’ve been consistent this year.
There’s nothing better than being out on the field with your mates. We’re playing good footy as a team and hopefully we can stay on track to play finals.
Just like any other player I am hungry for premiership success. That’s my ultimate goal for whatever is left in my career. Normally I’m watching teams running around on Grand Final day tasting the ultimate success.
That’s something I want to taste with my teammates.
It would be the most surreal feeling and it’s an experience that continues to drive me each day.