The road from Mason Redman’s AFL debut to his first win has been longer than most.
Redman was outstanding against Brisbane in Round 12, racking up 24 disposals and seven marks in Essendon’s win at the GABBA.
But, back in 2016 and in his first season with the Bombers, he found himself playing at the top level earlier than expected.
The club was left reeling after 12 players were suspended for the season, and the remaining players were under the pump on the field.
And while the opportunity was fantastic, it probably came too early.
“I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t really ready to play AFL football,” Redman told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“Due to the circumstances and my form at the time I was given an opportunity, but looking back on it I definitely don’t think I was mature enough in body or mind.”
Fast forward to now, and he is quickly settling in at the top level.
After a near two-year absence from the senior team, he is feeling much more comfortable with his standing at the club after a strong performance and a maiden win.
“Playing three games in my first year was awesome, but getting the win was something else for me personally — it was good to finally tick it off after two years of not playing,” he said.
It was clear in Sunday’s game that Redman is a different player now to the one that debuted two years ago. By three quarter time against Brisbane, he had topped his disposal tally from his first three games combined.
While his physical profile and football skills have undoubtedly improved, it’s a change of position that has really helped him find a place in the AFL once again.
Through juniors, he played a lot of midfield and halfback, but when Redman first got to Essendon he was thrown into a half-forward role.
An underwhelming start to last season led him to seek out the VFL coaching staff and ask for the switch.
“I wasn’t really happy with my football, so I got talking to the coaches about a potential move and that sort of set the ball rolling,” he explained.
“The positional change has helped me a lot. I definitely enjoy and understand the game a lot better being in the midfield and behind the ball.”
The other major factor in Redman’s improvement would be less obvious to the fans watching at home.
After debuting so soon, he struggled to adjust back to life in the VFL.
That frustration didn’t help his football, and he says he knew something had to change.
“Because I did play in my first year I put an expectation on myself that I should be playing in my second year, and that pressure didn’t really help me,” he said.
“This year I got in and have done a lot of work with David Reid, the psychologist at Essendon, about taking the pressure off and just getting back to why I played football in the first place.”
It’s no real surprise that Redman felt he should be playing senior-level football. After all, he has been doing so since he was still in high school.
Growing up in the small country town of Millicent, South Australia, he moved through the ranks at the local football club and found himself at the top early.
“Playing local footy for the Millicent Saints, I just went up through the grades as you do. I played my first senior game for Millicent when I was 15,” he said.
Eventually, moving away from his hometown was a tough but necessary change. Almost all most AFL aspirants from South Australia have to make their way to a SANFL club.
Redman says that, while leaving his friends and family was difficult, it made him stronger in the long run.
“I was able to get out of my comfort zone and move away from home. Having done that the year before made the move to Melbourne that much easier.”
While he’s now settled in Melbourne with his Bombers teammates, his roots are still in Millicent with his family.
And with Essendon’s bye this weekend, he had the chance to head home and catch up on everything he misses out on in the big smoke.
“It’s awesome getting back to see family and friends, and doing stuff I grew up doing. I love the country, whether it’s fishing, hunting, scuba diving, that sort of stuff.”
With a mid-season visit home and a maiden win in the books, Redman is ready to push on into the second half of the AFL season.