Greater Western Sydney coach Leon Cameron predicts injury-plagued forward Jon Patton’s best is yet to come after an uncommonly slow path to his 50th AFL game.
Patton will attain the milestone on Saturday against Gold Coast, but two knee reconstructions and a patella tendon injury have stalled his passage to the landmark.
It has taken the 2011 No.1 draft pick almost five seasons and he has played in under half of the Giants first 106 games.
“It has been a long journey for him,” Cameron said.
“He’s started to create a bit more consistency in his game of footy after being out for so long.
“Talls naturally take a little bit longer than most players, but he’s had a number of setbacks the last four and a half, five years.
“But his persistence; I reckoned he’s learnt a lot about going through a rehab program and what footy means to him.
“Does he want to go the extra yard? Can he push himself through to actually get to the ultimate and that’s playing AFL footy let alone playing 50 games, so it’s a fine achievement from Jon.
“We look forward to seeing him progress week after week and he’s an integral part of the lineup right now and he knows that every week he rolls out, he’s thankful that he can play footy again.
“I’d say the best is yet to come, I absolutely think so.
“He’s only five years in, really he’s probably only two years in because of the injuries he’s sustained.
“But I think he’s really starting to grasp what AFL footy is about week in week out and rocking up to play, so he’s got a lot of work to do still, but we’re definitely happy that he’s on the right track.”
Patton is currently riding a career-best streak of 17 consecutive games.
He has kicked 19 goals this season, putting him in joint fifth position at the club in that category.
Cameron values Pattons’s versatility.
“He can go down and play key back and also a little bit on the weekend he played in the ruck as well,” Cameron said.
He has also paid tribute to the increasing toughness of ruckman-forward Rory Lobb, who is enjoying a breakout season.
Lobb is working hard to overcome a knee injury and play this weekend.
“He was just a stick figure when he first arrived,” Cameron said of Lobb.
“He’s worked extremely hard to put on some weight and some muscle.
“But his hardness through the last 18 months has actually gone through the roof.
“He’s only a third-year player and sometimes we’ve got to pinch ourselves to say his development has probably exceeded expectations.”