Driven by being dumped from the Sydney Swans team for their 2014 AFL finals campaign, determined defender Jeremy Laidler has adapted his game to avoid suffering a similar fate this year.
The former Geelong and Carlton back has been the quiet achiever of the Swans list, playing each of their first 13 games.
With Nick Malceski leaving for the Gold Coast, Laidler has cemented a spot in a side who are finals-bound with a 10-3 record heading into Sunday’s away game against lowly Brisbane.
Capable of playing on talls and smalls, the 25-year-old 190cm back revived his career in the last year-and-a-half at Sydney after playing just five games in his last two seasons with Carlton.
Recruited to fill the gap left by retired 2012 premiership defender Marty Mattner, Laidler played in 19 of Sydney’s first 21 matches in his maiden season with the Swans in 2014.
He said he had been told he wasn’t used in the finals series due to team balance and a need for more speed.
“That (playing in finals) is the main goal, we all want to play at that time of year,” Laidler said on Friday.
“I was a bit disappointed last year that I missed out, but I suppose that was a big driver for me this year, I didn’t want that to happen again.
“I had to work hard over the pre-season and I’m still working hard on my game, so I wouldn’t want that to happen again.”
Asked what he had worked on Laidler said “just a balance of playing on different opponents and getting a bit more ball in my hands, backing myself with the ball.”
He said he had gained a lot of belief as a result of being an ever present member of the team this year.
Like so many other Swans recruits, Laidler has flourished in Sydney, away from the Melbourne AFL fishbowl.
“I suppose the big thing was getting out of the bubble down in Melbourne,” he said.
“You can focus on your footy up here and not have any distractions, that was a big thing for me.
“I’m really enjoying my footy up here and I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
He welcomed the return from suspension of strike forwards Lance Franklin and Kurt Tippett and believed their enforced layoff could benefit both men.
“They are pretty fresh and ready to go,” Laidler said.
“I suppose it wasn’t a bad thing (them) having a rest mid-year. They are biting the bit to get back out there.”