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West Coast Eagles

Ah Chee motivated by missed flag

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 02: during the 2018 AFL round 11 match between the West Coast Eagles and the St Kilda Saints at Optus Stadium on June 02, 2018 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Media)
Brendon Ah Chee is keen to make a greater impact during his second year at the Eagles

Brendon Ah Chee wouldn't be human if he didn't wonder 'what if?' after watching West Coast's epic Grand Final victory from the MCG grandstand last September.

If it wasn't for a painful twist of his ankle seven months earlier in the JLT Community Series against former club Port Adelaide, Ah Chee's first-year fate at the Eagles could have been very different.

Having requested a trade in search of more midfield opportunity, the 25-year-old had his hand up to replace retired Brownlow medallists Matt Priddis and Sam Mitchell.

Ah Chee most likely would have been in the round one side, with the chance to settle into a spot and impress coach Adam Simpson.

But instead he spent eight weeks on the sidelines, and was a spectator as West Coast made a flying start to the season.

"The pre-season last year I thought I was hitting my stride at the right time and I was pretty confident I would be part of the best 22 in the early part of the season," Ah Chee told AFL.com.au.

"Then the ankle injury came up and in that time the boys started playing really good footy, started winning a lot of games and everything was working.

"(For) the coaches, it wasn't broken, so they didn't need to fix it."

By the time Ah Chee made it to AFL ranks in round seven, the Eagles' engine room was rolling and he was shuffled between midfield and half-forward roles.

Despite playing eight games over three stints, he never nailed his spot and only picked up more than 15 touches once – in his first appearance against the Giants (21).

Ah Chee was dropped for the last time after the round 22 loss to Melbourne, and is still waiting to feature in a final after 35 games over seven seasons.

"Obviously, I would've liked to have played more, but circumstances didn't really allow for that," Ah Chee said.

"It was obviously real excitement and happiness for the boys to achieve something so great, but at the same time a bit of jealousy and envy that you want to be a part of that and actually be on the ground for Grand Final day.

"That's something I can use for a little bit of motivation this year."  

Named as a Grand Final emergency, Ah Chee was involved in the entire build-up to the decider.

He sat in on team meetings and the parade through Melbourne's CBD, and trained while Jeremy McGovern was put through a last-minute fitness test on match eve.

"It was a weird feeling to be part of everything and then not be able to run out and play," he said.

"It was only after when we were all out on the ground you could see the joy on all the boys' faces knowing that they achieved something special that they'll have for the rest of their lives, obviously the feelings of envy and wishing you could feel that as well, that sort of kicks in.

"A little bit of 'what if?', but it's done. It was an awesome year, great to be a part of it, but now I want to be part of something a little bit more."

Strong overhead and with the ability to play taller than his 188cm, Ah Chee's ability to go forward and take a mark appealed to West Coast.

But he is backing himself to become a midfield regular, and is among a host of Eagles who has shed weight this summer to improve his running.

Ah Chee clocked a personal best 2km time trial before Christmas, and is using teammate Jack Redden's form spike as inspiration heading into next season.

Redden battled injury setbacks after crossing from Brisbane at the end of 2015, and also struggled to find his feet in unfamiliar roles.

But the former Lion starred last year after a surgery-free summer, finishing runner-up to Elliot Yeo in the John Worsfold Medal.

Ah Chee, who continued "living on the edge" after signing the sixth consecutive one-year contract of his career last October, believed his experience in the west so far was "very similar" to Redden's.

"It took him a while to find his feet, but then last year he was one of the most important mids that we had and won Player of the Finals, along with Dom Sheed," Ah Chee said.

"I've still got the confidence in my ability, it's just when the opportunity arises it's up to me to take it like 'Reddo' did.

"It's really good to look at stories like that where blokes have turned it around and forged really successful careers, so hopefully I can travel along similar lines to him."