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Players’ Voice — James Parsons

To have played 16 games this season is somewhat of a shock.

Coming off the rookie list is far from easy, because you don’t have the same luxury as some of the guys from the national draft who get two years to make an impact. I guess for me that means you have to push that bit harder every time you step out onto the field for training.

At first, I was probably annoyed I didn’t manage to get selected in the national draft, but once you get to the club there is no difference between the highest-paid players and the rookies. You’re all out on the field doing what you love.

I came into the year with aspirations to play a few games, but to play 16 comes is a bit of surprise. Going into 2017 I thought I would be pushing for a spot in the team, but now I feel like I’m doing my part to help the team.

Everything was going to plan heading into the season — I felt my pre-season was going extremely well — then I broke my foot. It was a real bump in the road. At that stage, there was a feeling that my chances of making my way onto the senior list may have been hampered.

Having done the entire pre-season, I felt all the hard work I had done was a bit of a waste because I was going to lose some of the fitness I had built up in the gruelling summer sessions.

I missed the entire JLT Series which I was disappointed about, but once I learned I would be out for six to eight weeks I took it in a positive light.

During that time on the sidelines I was doing everything I could to improve on the things that I thought needed the most work.

After a tough start to the year, to say everything went to plan would be an understatement. I managed to force my way into the senior team for the Round 3 game against Melbourne. Dave Johnson, one of the club’s development coaches, asked me to meet him in the café after training to talk about how the season was going so far. And when I saw Scotty rock up I had an idea what the meeting was about.

The week was all positive from there — it’s been my lifelong dream to play in the AFL and to be able to achieve that was surreal. To play more since then has been amazing.

When I was promoted to the senior list, I had this feeling of satisfaction. It often feels like you aren’t seen as an official AFL player until you play a game — so getting off the rookie list was a relief.

At the mid-point of the year I was lucky enough to sign a new deal with the club until 2020, I was honestly overwhelmed at the deal they offered me.

There’s been several other guys to make their debut for the club this year and it is important we all share a strong bond off the field.

Guys like Wylie Buzza, Zach Guthrie, Brandan Parfitt and Sam Simpson are all going to be future leaders of the club so it’s a key we remain as a close-knit unit. To get that strong bond early both on and off the field will be important in making sure that isn’t much of a so-called transition between the senior players leaving and the younger players stepping out.

A strong connection will mean we can slot straight into that role.

But right now, the footy club is focused on making a big impact on the competition in the next six weeks. There’s been a lot written about us over the past few weeks but we’re focusing on what we are doing internally.

The heat is only going to continue to grow in the coming weeks with finals and we believe we are primed for that. We’ve never had doubts over our ability to perform as a team.