When West Coast entered season 2015 without two of their stalwart defenders in Eric Mackenzie and Mitch Brown, many critics predicted the scoring floodgates would open against the undersized back line.
Under the guidance of back line coach Adrian Hickmott, the Eagles defence introduced a game style that enabled the likes of Jeremy McGovern, Will Schofield, Sharrod Wellingham and Brad Sheppard to catapult their side to the fourth ranked defence in the competition.
As an added bonus, the club was able to unearth 12 games from first year recruit Jackson Nelson, who impressed when given his opportunity.
Selected at a bargain with pick number 52 in the 2014 NAB AFL Draft, the rebounding defender showcased exquisite skills while manning some of the most dangerous small forwards in the AFL.
With competition getting fierce for a starting spot in the side’s best 22, Nelson understands that consistent improvement is needed in order to add to his game tally in season 2016.
“For me, it’s more about learning the back’s system and the way that we are playing this year,” Nelson explains.
“I need to continue to learn the game style and sharpen my skills, just making sure they are up to AFL standards so hopefully I can play some more senior footy this season.”
Nelson divulges that as a first year player at the Eagles, your pre-season training loads are managed extensively compared to the more experienced players in the squad.
This season, the youngster from Geelong has taken the next step to build a bigger and stronger fitness base to endure a full season at the top level.
“I am definitely doing more this pre-season compared to my first one,” Nelson admits.
“I was in and out of drills last year whereas this year, I’ve pretty much been doing everything that my load is telling me.
“Training more in this heat hasn’t been too bad.
“We have a slushy machine now, that’s why I have a blue tongue now during this interview.
“It was pretty hot the first week after Christmas and a few of the boys were feeling it then.
“But we are all getting through and the gains are all there that other teams will get from going to a different location.”
Nelson arrived at the club with fellow Melbourne young gun and good friend Liam Duggan, who is currently progressing well through his season ending knee injury suffered last season.
“Duggo is going well,” says Nelson.
“He’s got a bit of soreness in his knee at the moment but he should be back into full training with the squad soon. He is doing most of the drills over the past few weeks.
“We get a long really well and I’m hoping that we can play a few more games together this season.”
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