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How a tough conversation provided the ultimate motivation

Since coming to the Saints, my role has changed dramatically.

In my years at Hawthorn and then my first year at St Kilda, I had played predominantly as a half-forward who could rotate into the midfield.

That was a role I enjoyed, but when Richo approached me a couple of years ago about the possibility of moving to defence, I was all for it.

It was a good opportunity to change and evolve and it was something that I needed. I felt like I could play to my strengths in that position because I could see the game a lot better and it rejuvenated and excited me.

To learn a new position and have an impact playing it is something that appealed.

While I managed to string some form together and enjoyed a consistent run in the senior side since switching to defence, I lost my spot in the team after Round 3 this season.

It was probably my strength that ended up costing me my position in the side.

The coaches and I identified that it wasn’t my defence that was the problem, it was the fact that I wasn’t generating enough run and drive for the team.

They wanted me to go back to the reserves and find some form in that regard, and it took me a bit longer than expected but I’m glad that I’ve been able to come back in and play the way I know I can.

I’d be lying if I said that negative thoughts about my place in the team didn’t surface after the demotion, though.

Those things happen to everyone, especially when you’re playing in the reserves for an extended period of time and struggling to get back into the seniors.

For me, it was about being positive and keeping the belief that I’d be able to make a strong impact at the end of the year. That, I guess, is easier said than done.

Playing in the AFL and the professional environment that goes with it means that tough conversations need to be had between players and coaches, and that’s what I went through.

I acknowledged that perhaps I wasn’t playing with the dare and drive that I usually do, but it did take me by surprise a little bit. I was probably too defensive early on in the year — I wasn’t necessarily playing bad footy — but my role in the side is to defend and then give strong drive and that wasn’t happening.

After the Brisbane game, Richo and I got together and had a chat and I accepted the fact that I needed to go back and find form.

I was recalled for Maddie’s Match against the Tigers, and in my mind I knew that I had to keep it simple leading into such a big game for the club.

All I was focused on was my speed and my aggression, and if I nailed those two aspects, the rest would take care of itself. I know that I can provide drive and energy off half-back, and that’s what I needed to do.

It’s been working since.

The feeling around the club at the moment is very positive.

We knew coming off the Port Adelaide loss that Sunday’s game against West Coast was going to be a crunch game — it was do-or-die.

Despite such a tough loss in Adelaide, we went in the Eagles game with a positive mindset and got the result we wanted. It gives us a chance and the goal is pretty simple from here, we just need to keep winning each week to give ourselves the opportunity to be in a position to push for finals.

Playing in consistent crunch games is exciting for such a young group.

I’d like to think that I play a bit of a mentoring role with our young half-backs. Brandon White, who has come into the side in the last few weeks, is someone I have been working closely with.

His ability to earn his spot back in the side after debuting late last year is a credit to the work he has put in. I’m a pretty introverted person, but being an experienced player now in our backline has allowed me to open up a bit with the younger boys coming through.

Regardless of what happens at the end of the year with the team, the future is exciting at the Saints.