A lot can change in the space of 12 months.
Just ask rising Hawk Dylan Moore, whose 2021 form has been recognised with selection in the 40-man AFLPA 22under22 squad, presented by Snaffle.
This time last year, Moore had not added to the seven games he tallied up during 2019, and in the absence of state-level football, had limited opportunities to stake his claim as a best-22 player.
But when the number 36 finally got his chance, he made it count.
Moore combined 25 disposals, a goal and eight marks in the last game of the season — a performance made even more impressive when considering the reduced match time — and though it marked the end of the 2020 campaign, it provided the spark for a career-best pre-season.
“That helped me have the confidence going into the pre-season that, ‘Yeah, I can play good AFL footy’, but it was only one game and a really small sample size [so] it was [about] how I could build on that and play some consistent footy,” Moore told aflplayers.com.au.
This year, the 22-year-old has pieced together a breakout season. Ranked ‘elite’ for his disposals (15.4) and goals (1.4) per game, as well as ‘above average’ for marks (3.8) and tackles (2.9), the small forward is proving a handful for opposition defenders.
“The real catalyst was probably pre-season,” Moore said. “I did a full pre-season and was training pretty well, and then early on in the year I just got games into me and the coaches had a bit more belief in me that I could play a good role for the side.”
“Every game I played, I felt like I was a bit more comfortable in the group and that everyone could rely on me.”
Rather than worrying about his weaknesses, Moore attributes his purple patch of form to a newfound ability to amplify his strengths.
“I got caught up in the first couple of years trying to work on weaknesses too much,” he said.
“My aerobic ability is pretty good” — Moore is a former steeplechaser and won the 1600-metre event at the Stawell Gift in 2016 — “So it was like, ‘Use that in games and try to wear out your opponents’, and that’s given me the confidence that my strengths are AFL standard.”
Moore’s season might have flown under the radar with the Hawks towards the ladder’s bottom end, but with selection in the 22under22 squad, he features alongside the likes of Aaron Naughton, the King twins and Shai Bolton as one of the league’s most promising young forwards.
“You go into seasons and you’re not looking for that individual achievement,” he said.
“It’s pretty cool to get recognition from external people with those in the AFL that are among the top 40 for under 22 [years old], but that’s just one achievement along the way and hopefully it will lead to a lot more than that.”
The fleet-footed Hawk has extracted confidence from a series of stellar performances in Hawthorn wins, too, including three goals and 19 disposals against Essendon in round one, four and 20 against the Giants in round 15 and two and 20 against Collingwood two weeks ago.
“It’s enormous,” Moore said. “You want to get the win and you want to play well, so when you put those two together and feel like you can contribute to a team win, that gives you confidence that the team needs you.”
“It’s given me the confidence that when I play well, the team can play well.
Despite standing at just 176 centimetres, his strong pack mark against the Magpies two weeks ago was evidence of his well-rounded repertoire.
“I sometimes get told that I’m a key forward in a small man’s body,” he joked.
“I don’t have great ‘hops’ or anything, but I feel like I read the ball pretty well, so occasionally I’ll go for a mark and hopefully take it.”
Moore has been blessed with a host of handy mentors, including Jack Gunston and Chad Wingard as well as Jarryd Roughead and Cyril Rioli in his earliest days, but has been particularly well supported by Luke Breust.
“I just want to play like him, and he’s been able to guide me so much,” Moore explained.
“I look up to him and what he can achieve on and off the field. If I can have half the career that he had, I’m going to be pretty happy.”
Moore is still unsigned for 2022 and beyond, but is poised to earn a contract extension after solidifying his spot in the Hawks’ forward 50.
“Hopefully we can get something done within the next month or so. I feel like I’m in a better position than last year, so hopefully we can get something happening pretty soon,” he said.