2015 was a tough year for me on the field.
I felt I was in reasonable form at VFL level but opportunities were drying up at the Tigers as the club was on their way to a finals series.
It was a frustrating time but it’s something most fringe players go through. I had been in the system for a few years but spots in the side were harder to come by.
Richmond thought I had enough time to prove myself so we parted ways but it all ended very smoothly. It was an unfortunate time and I thought I could play a good role for them but they felt otherwise.
I thought I might’ve landed a rookie spot somewhere but obviously that didn’t eventuate, so I was preparing to head back to the VFL.
I was hoping to have one more crack at it. I was planning on playing one year in the VFL and hopefully relaunch my AFL career somewhere else, so I was committed to playing for Williamstown — I enjoyed going to training there and the culture.
Then January came around and the Essendon boys got suspended. Coincidentally, I had the day off and had my finger on the pulse with what was going on with the club and the players.
Within a week, I got in contact with Adrian Dodoro and said if they need top-up players, I’ll happily put my hand up and it went from there.
It all happened very quickly. I signed for the 2016 season and definitely saw it as a temporary arrangement. It was a great opportunity to be playing, but I knew it was an eight-month agreement. Towards the end, I wasn’t sure where the club was at and what they needed but I knew I needed to be playing in the last few rounds to be considering the chance to continue at Essendon.
What separated the year from the others in my time in the AFL system was the lack of expectation for the team given the circumstances.
It’s a lot easier to go out on the field each week and play footy when there’s not a lot of pressure. It was a free hit, I just got to go out there and enjoy my footy and enjoy playing at the top level which is something most players don’t get to do — it’s amazing how positively that can impact your form.
Although I ended up playing almost every game for the season, I didn’t know that would be the case early on in the year.
I was told my spot might be in trouble during the earlier weeks but luckily when it came to Thursday, I was reassured I would be playing.
As the season wore on I became more comfortable that I would be playing most weeks but definitely not in the first half of the season — I wasn’t playing too well and I was lucky ‘Woosha’ kept giving me a go.
When the season finished, I had played 21 games — a career-best — and thought I was in a good position to potentially re-sign but understood it would be determined by what the club needed.
The talks started to happen and the ball got rolling and I ended up extending my time at the Bombers which is obviously great — I definitely didn’t think I’d extend my AFL career by three years when we first entered 2016.
As for 2017, the biggest challenge for me is trying not to change too much as a little more pressure and expectation comes with the other boys coming back from suspension.
I’ve said to a couple of people it’s a completely different team than the one I walked into in January. The guys who are returning have brought a heap of excitement and that’s filtered right through to the young boys and we have a few of those guys who are first to third-year players, so it’s a pretty good place to be.
The expectations of myself will change now but it’s a great way to play footy with no pressure, so I’d like to think I can keep playing like I did in 2016.