Due to the disappointing circumstances last year, it gave a greater opportunity for the younger players to gain a chance to play more and develop, which might not have had if those guys were here.
So I guess if there is a positive to be drawn from 2016, that’d be it. But it’s great to have a handful of senior guys back this year, we’re definitely starting to bond more now as a team and hopefully we can continue and see where it takes us.
My role within the side has changed slightly from Year 1 to Year 2, and a lot of that is down to one reason.
I’m playing up forward more because our depth in the midfield has increased. You’ve got to play other positions as much as possible to keep your spot.
The great thing about it is that our depth allows for consistent fresh legs through the middle of the ground. I’ve been learning more about the forward craft and the structure up there this year and it’s really helping develop my game.
That high hard-forward role is a pretty unselfish one because you’re working to create space for teammates, so you can go through stages where you don’t see the footy as much, but if you’re not doing those things then the team struggles.
It’s not all about kicking the goals, it’s largely about locking the ball in our forward line and pressuring as much as possible.
One of the biggest adjustments I’ve had to come to grips with since entering the system is learning how to run both offensively and defensively.
When you come through from the under 18s you want to hunt the footy, but you can influence the game just as much without the footy and that’s something I’m trying to get better at. I’m always thinking about the positions I can be in to help the team out, but it takes time.
I’ve spoken to Dyson Heppell and David Myers about it and they both said it’s one of the hardest things to adjust to when you get into the system. If you don’t make split decisions quickly you can be hurt on the other side.
It’s not just those two who I have tried to act like a sponge around.
There’s so many good leaders at the club at different stages of their careers.
James Kelly has been super for all of the younger players. Without the older heads around last year, he was great for the developing group. Structurally out on the ground, he is like another coach out there.
I’ve learnt a lot about taking care of my body from Kel. He has given me plenty of advice on how to prepare from week-to-week. It’s a long year for the younger boys, so having that knowledge helps us out. The year is so demanding on your body.
When you come into the AFL system, you want to learn as much as possible straight away, so to have resources to lean on really benefits all of us.
The absence of the senior players also elevated Zach Merrett and Joe Daniher and forced them to lead from the front with others absent.
Those two have grown both on and off the field and are held in such high regard around the place. Players frequently turn to them for advice.
There’s such a great feeling around the club that it was a very easy decision to re-sign recently.
I was stoked to get the extra two years. I’ve loved my time here so far and you can see that future ahead of us. There’s a great group of boys here, the staff are amazing and the fans are great as well. We get to play in front of big crowds like ANZAC Day, so to be a part of it in the future was a no-brainer for me.
I had no thoughts or talk about leaving. It all took care of itself in the end.
I can see a great future here because of all the young talent coming through, so that was a big motivation to stay along with the other points I mentioned. Our supporters get down week in and week out and it feels like a finals atmosphere when we play. It’s great to play in front of them.
The only negative I’ve faced this season has been sustaining a calf injury in the middle part of the season.
It was tough watching the boys and not being able to help out, especially given the fact that they were playing so well at the time. I had to put in a few extra sessions to top up my fitness levels and go through the VFL to work my way back into the team.
But having the injury may have helped in a way because it’s such a demanding season on the body. Sometimes it’s nice to be refreshed physically and mentally. I have come back feeling fresher than I normally would have this late into the season.
Winning a lot more games this year than last year makes things more enjoyable. We’re working really hard on our values and our structures as a group.
You can’t look too far ahead to finals, sorry to say it, we need to take things one week at a time because anyone can win on a given day, which we learnt first-hand against Brisbane not long ago.