This article was originally published on June 3, prior to Michael Hurley appearing on AFL360.
Michael Hurley is making a difference.
Essendon fans would agree that the Bombers have looked a more settled outfit since sending Hurley to defence in 2014.
The 25-year-old has progressed again in 2015. He told aflplayers.com.au this week that he was enjoying the challenging of quelling the big name forwards.
This year he’s added more rebound and run to his game. He’s become a more damaging player, as reflected in the Official AFL Player Ratings; Hurley was ranked at No. 124 at the start of the season and is now up to No. 106.
Better still, he’s being touted as a potential All-Australian. On the most recent Sunday Footy Show, former Essendon champion Matthew Lloyd – who wore the number 18 guernsey before Hurley – had the 25-year-old starting in the back six in his rolling All-Australian team.
“I definitely feel quite comfortable as a defender,” Hurley said.
“It’s nice to be able to play in a position and improve and learn each week.
“There are so many good forwards around but I enjoy that test of playing on them.”
This week, when the Bombers take on Geelong, arguably the most difficult examination of a key defender awaits the Essendon backline: Tom Hawkins.
Hurley and teammate Cale Hooker are yet to get the tap on the shoulder from coach James Hird to stand the collosus from the Cats.
“I am not sure who will get him to start with but usually we rotate a little and I think there will be times I am on him,” Hurley said.
“I definitely feel quite comfortable as a defender” – Michael Hurley
“He’s not the only good tall forward they have, so we will have to work together and get some help from the midfielders as well.”
On the field, Hurley’s impact is obvious. Off it, however, it’s even more important.
Hurley has been involved with the Make A Difference foundation since his early days as an AFL player.
His current fundraising effort is for four-year-old Ashleigh.
Ashleigh, who has cerebral palsy, recently had an operation to realign her hips. Her parents struggle to move the brave youngster and want to install ceiling hoists and a height-adjustable bed in their home to make things easier.
They require $10,000 to make it happen and Hurley is almost halfway to raising the funds for the family.
The Essendon star, who has a shock of blonde dreadlocks, will shave his head next week to raise the money.
“I met her for the first time today and she’s a great kid,” Hurley said.
“The MAD foundation do so much great work and hopefully we can get to the $10,000 to make things a little easier for Ashleigh and her family.”
Hurley said he had received a fair bit of feedback about his hairstyle in recent weeks.
“The opposition players don’t say too much but I cop plenty from the fans. I can hear a fair bit of what they’ve got to say.
“I think it’s going to be a pretty stock standard haircut this time. Just get rid of it all.”