Jake Carlisle’s determination to master his new role in the Essendon side led him to approach one of the game’s greatest centre half-forwards for advice on how to better play the position.
Carlisle contacted Wayne Carey last month through his manager Anthony McConville, and the pair spent time together in a cafe before Essendon’s round-10 game against Sydney.
Carlisle brought his laptop along so that Carey could talk him through some vision, and was filled with questions about how he could speed up his improvement after switching from defence this year.
Among other things, Carey spoke to the 22-year-old about not over-committing to leads and finding himself out of position, understanding his teammates’ habits and abilities when kicking the ball forward and doing the things that other forwards used to annoy him with when he played as a key defender last year.
They spoke about how he should not feel disheartened if he finds himself in three-on-one contests, and take pleasure in simply bringing the ball to ground if not in a position to mark.
''We had a good chat, just a basic discussion about how he’s going and the things we think he’s doing well and not so well,'' Carey said.
''We had a look at some vision and he was very inquisitive. He asked quite a few questions and they were all about trying to get better, not once did he mention wanting to go and play down back.
''I said to him: 'When you had your really good year at centre half-back, what did the forwards do to you that you didn’t like?'
''He said they were constantly on the move, they ran to dangerous spots and they were always in the play, they didn’t lead out and just stop.
''My advice was, 'Put that thought pattern into the way you play, think about what you didn’t like being done to you as a defender, and make sure you do that to whoever’s playing on you'.''
Carlisle kicked two goals in the game after his catch-up with Carey, albeit after starting as the substitute and coming into the game after half-time.
He had kicked just four goals in the first eight games of the season, as he and Joey Daniher were thrust into the two key forward roles despite Daniher's limited AFL experience and Carlisle's breakthrough season in defence last year.
Carlisle struck Carey as a confident young player, who in tandem with Michael Hurley and with continued development, could become a genuinely dangerous player at both ends of the ground.
He noted that neither Carlisle nor Daniher has had it easy at times this season, given Essendon’s often indirect ball movement into the forward line.
''He’ll develop irrespective of where he mostly ends up playing, but to have a player who can genuinely swing between centre half-back and centre half-forward will be invaluable to their team,'' Carey said.
''We know Hurley can play forward and back as well, so all of a sudden they’ve got a couple of players who can swing between both positions and give the team a bit of flexibility.
''It will be interesting to see whether they persist this year with playing him forward, but in the long term I think he’s going to be a really valuable player for them if he keeps working to improve those few things.''