Andrew Brayshaw has stepped up.
Averaging 20 disposals and five tackles in shortened game time for 2020, the numbers are indicative of a breakout season.
The 20-year-old was selected in the AFL Players’ 22under22 squad presented by Big Swing Golf, and according to the Fremantle midfielder, it’s come off an impressive two-year foundation.
“I’d like to think it’s something that I’ve been building over my first two years leading into my third year of footy,” Brayshaw told aflplayers.com.au.
“A lot of confidence gets built over the games that you play, and you keep learning your craft as your body builds strength and fitness every year.”
Combined with increased opportunity to play as an inside midfielder, Brayshaw is flourishing in a familiar role.
“I’ve played a fair bit more time inside (the contest), which is where I used to play my footy growing up and in under-18s,” Brayshaw said.
“It was great to get back inside this year and really give myself the best chance to play some good footy.
“It’s come off the back of some team success as well, we’ve had some good wins this year.”
Brayshaw’s development has also been propelled by a few handy mentors, led by Fremantle captain Nat Fyfe, Docker-turned-Lion Lachie Neale, and 331-game star David Mundy.
“When I first got to the club I lived with Lachie Neale and he was a big mentor for me throughout my first year,” Brayshaw said.
“Since he’s moved onto Brisbane, it’s probably been Nat Fyfe and David Mundy. They’re really trying to teach the young boys a lot more, it’s been very noticeable.
“They’ve been huge trying to help me with my craft, and also off-field stuff.”
Fremantle’s youthful growth is well-illustrated by the 40-man 22under22 squad, which also includes midfielders Adam Cerra, Caleb Serong and ruckman Sean Darcy.
“‘Cezza’ (Cerra) has always been a really classy player,” Brayshaw said.
“His ability to find time and space and then use the ball really well makes him stand out.
“Similar to myself, we’ve been building over the last few years and he’s had a really good season.
“He’s always been very classy, but I think his confidence is up and he’s showing the league what he can do.”
Rising Star favourite Caleb Serong is another Docker turning heads.
“He’s not your typical first-year player,” Brayshaw said.
“He’s come straight in and played his role every week, he’s a really hard in and under player who’s really clean.
“If the ball’s there to be won, you know he’s going to put his head over it and deliver it to you on a platter.
“He’s very strong, especially for his age — he’s only 18 and he’s going in and roughing it up with some of the biggest and best midfielders in the comp.”
And Sean Darcy, seventh in the league for overall hit-outs, is adding new tricks to his ruck repertoire.
“Watching Sean has been awesome,” Brayshaw said.
“It’s been a really good transition over the last few years to see Aaron Sandilands step away and Sean seamlessly step up into the number one ruck role.
“He’s been working a lot on his aerial impact.
“He gets down the [boundary] line now and either brings the footy to the front where I want it and where other midfielders want it, or he takes a big clunk.
“He’s had a ripping year and he’s only going to get better.”
Brayshaw also gave aflplayers.com.au a rare insight into taking on some of the league’s brightest young midfielders in the 22under22 squad.
“He’s a really well balanced inside and outside midfielder who’s really clean and strong inside the contest but he’s also lightning quick and can burn you on the outside.”
“He finds the ball really well; his work rate is probably among the best in the comp. He runs and runs all day, and is really quite strong overhead and takes a lot of marks. He’s got a lethal kick, he works you around the ground, finds it a lot and uses it really well.”
“His work ethic has always been outstanding. He was a bottom age ‘Sandy Dragon’ along with Max and Ben King who are very similar in the way that they work so hard. They’re really committed to be the best players they can be. To see Bailey really starting to come into his own and really starting to take hold of games and dominating games, it’s really no surprise. He works harder than anyone I know, so it’s awesome to see him tearing it up.”
“He’s a really strong player. Can rag doll you in a contest, and can get forward hard on you and kick goals as well. Someone who’s really strong, but also really well balanced, can hold his shape on the outside (of the contest) and get used as well. Another really good player.”
“James is a really strong bull on the inside. He’s already won a best and fairest for their club, so it’s amazing form him to be able to do that. He’s really strong really clean in and under and can take on a few tacklers and can really burst out of the stoppages.”
Andrew Brayshaw’s 22under22 team features all three of his Dockers teammates
Remarkably, Brayshaw’s selection in the squad comes alongside five former Sandringham Dragons teammates in McGrath, Taranto, Smith, and the King twins.
“In my bottom age year, Andy McGrath and Tim Taranto were top-age players that ended up going pick one and two, and when I was that young, you just look up to them and try and learn heaps off them,” he reflected.
“You see them achieve their goal and get drafted, and then when you finally reach the level and start playing good footy as well and you’re playing against them, it’s pretty surreal.
“But we’re all really good friends, so after the game we’ll have a chat and see how we’re going.
“It’s pretty awesome being able to play against blokes that you played junior footy with and played against, and it makes you feel good that so many of us have made it to the level and are starting to play good footy.”