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West Coast Eagles

Allen ready for midfield workload

Allen ready for midfield workload Fourth-year Eagle Matt Allen is ready to transition his game to full-time midfielder in 2019

Versatile Eagle Matt Allen hopes a permanent switch from the forward line to the midfield will help him realise his AFL dream in 2019.

The 21-year-old has showed plenty of promise since landing in the west three years ago, but he is yet to make his senior debut.

Recruited as a key position player, Allen spent his first two and a half years as an Eagle honing his forward craft.

But halfway through last year’s WAFL campaign the club’s coaching staff decided to throw the athletic big man in the guts of the ground to see what he could do around the ball.

Allen not only embraced the change, he revelled in it.

The South Australian won 20 possessions and seven marks during his first outing onball against Swan Districts and starred against Perth in Round 17, where he won 26 disposals, registered 10 score involvements and kicked a goal at Leederville Oval.

He capped off a magnificent WAFL campaign by claiming East Perth’s 2018 FD Book Medal alongside Luke Partington and Patrick McGinnity.

“Last year I was up and down a little bit with my form in the forward line, so we decided to have a crack in the midfield,” Allen said.

“I just enjoyed being a midfielder and trying to use my strength and my size in stoppages and use my power. I wanted to get the ball in my hands and just try to create something positive out of that.

“It was really enjoyable and I had some success in there.”

Allen believes his evolution from forward to midfielder helped extend his AFL career.

With no guarantee of a contract beyond 2018, Allen’s future was up in the air midway through last year.

But the determined Glenelg product buckled down, got the most out of what was at times a challenging season and was rewarded with a one-year extension at season’s end.

“Coming into the back end of last year knowing my future was unknown had its distractions at times, but I found the best way (to deal with it) – as much as it was difficult – was to try and forget about it and just enjoy my footy,” Allen revealed.

“That sort of tied in with being moved to the midfield, which helped me enjoy it. It was fresh; it was a change. I had a bit of success with it and then it blossomed from there.

“Fortunately I have been given another year at the club, so I’m looking to make the most of that and repay the coaches.”

Now that he is 100 per cent committed to becoming an onballer, Allen has tailored his training program to hone his inside game and outside run.

But he believes going head-to-head with the club’s premiership midfielders on a regular basis will fast-track his development and help him earn an AFL berth in blue and gold.

“The most enjoyable thing about working with the midfielders is matching up their strengths against mine and best figuring out how to improve my strengths and also combat theirs,” he said.

“I’ve been doing it against the backs for the last few years, so that’s exciting and enjoyable. I’ve been picking the brains of Luke Shuey, Jack Redden and a lot of them, really.

“My goal this year is to, one, crack in and play in the AFL side. I just want to contribute and play my role. I think that’s something I’ve learnt in my first few years, is the most valuable thing you can do is just play your role.

“That’s probably my number one ticket to get into the (AFL) side, it’s just finding a role that best suits the side and playing really well.”