After spending the entirety of his AFL career as a defender, Geelong youngster Jake Kolodjashnij was transferred to the wing a couple of months ago and has since flourished. He reflects on the change of role in the lead up to the Cats’ Preliminary Final clash.
Football is a team game but sometimes a change in role does an individual a lot of good, too.
My year didn’t start that well. I was struck down with glandular fever before the season started followed by a few groin issues which meant I missed the first few matches.
It was frustrating but things were eventually sorted and I made my way back into the team in the usual spot as the third tall defender.
Things were going along well enough personally, although I wasn’t developing as rapidly as I would’ve liked. I was approached by Matthew Scarlett, our defensive coach, before the Round 19 clash against Carlton who said I’ll be playing on the wing that week.
To say I was shocked would be an understatement. The last time I’d played on the wing was in the under-13s in Tassie where my brother, Kade and I were on opposite wings — since then I’ve been a mainstay in the backline, which has continued into my AFL career.
The coaches thought playing further up the ground would be a good step in my development. Being around the footy has improved my decision-making in tight situations.
That’s been the area I’ve improved the most this season and playing on the wing has also helped with my transition running.
Drastically changing roles like this — given I’m taller than the average midfielder and lack the experience in the area — made me a little nervous but I spent the majority of the week studying the role.
Training was tinkered with a fair bit. I spent all of my time with the midfield group in meetings and on the track. The aim is to get used to the specifics of the role and a lot of vision was involved.
As a player, you’re happy to play anywhere on the field so it wasn’t hard to embrace the change.
I went okay against the Blues, enough that I’ve held the spot since. Each week I pick up something new especially when you play against the likes of Dan Hannebery.
I matched up on Dan when the Swans touched us up at home in Round 20, which was a fair learning experience.
He’s a super player. He’s such a strong runner and works well from contest to contest. He played a pretty good game that night.
Hannebery’s a smart footballer in the way he sets up, he doesn’t get sucked into the contest and positions himself well, which comes with a lot of experience.
So far I’m enjoying the freedom of being able to push further up the field. I get the chance to push forward a lot harder but also provide a lot of transition running.
The feedback has been positive but it’s a steady progression, I’m certainly not setting the world on fire. I’ll continue to chip away but it makes it so much worth it when the club gets wins like we did last week.
While it is important to celebrate the wins along the way, our focus has well and truly moved to this weekend’s Preliminary Final.
Hopefully we can get the job done and get back to work next week.