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West Coast Eagles

One not enough for motivated Brander

Jarrod Brander is doing everything in his power to add to his AFL games tally this year

It is most young footballers’ dream to make at least one AFL appearance in their lifetime, but budding West Coast utility Jarrod Brander will not settle for a solitary senior outing after making his debut last year.

The Eagles’ first selection in the 2017 NAB AFL Draft was rewarded for his consistent WAFL play last year by earning a call up to do battle with Sydney at the SCG in round 12.

With Jack Darling out of the side nursing an ankle injury, Brander felt he had a chance to establish himself in the starting 22 with a good performance against the Swans.

Unfortunately for the talented 19-year-old, things didn’t go according to plan in the harbour city.

Brander managed just five disposals, three marks, one inside 50 and a tackle in his first outing as an Eagle.

“Going into the game I didn’t really know what to expect,” Brander said.

“You get told what to expect, like that it’ll be so much quicker and that everyone is bigger and stronger.

“I had Heath Grundy playing on me in what I think was he 250th game, so that was definitely a bit of an eye opener.”

Rather than lament the performance, Brander used it as motivation and finished off the year strongly at East Perth, where he transitioned from attack to defence.

If he needed any more inspiration ahead of 2019 after the Royals’ season came to an end following an elimination final defeat to Claremont, he got it when his senior teammates defied the odds and secured West Coast’s fourth premiership with a thrilling five-point win over Collingwood at the MCG.

“As soon as the siren went I started thinking about the game and how awesome it was,” Brander said of the grand final.

“Just celebrating with the boys that didn’t play, you think about how awesome it would be if you did play.

“I got back to Perth and got into the gym straight away, because I didn’t want to waste any time. I didn’t have much of a break because I was pretty hungry to play AFL as soon as I could and hopefully experience that one day.”

Despite being drafted as a key forward, Brander has been honing his defensive skills since returning to formal training late last year.

He said although the back line was among the stingiest in the league last year, they held ambitions to become the best defensive unit in the competition in 2019.

“(Backline coach and defensive coordinator) Daniel Pratt is really driving the group to get the best out of us,” Brander revealed.

“The backs in the AFL last year were obviously one of the best in the competition, but I don’t think the boys are satisfied yet. They want to keep getting better and become the best back line in the AFL.

“Personally, I want to get bigger and stronger so I can compete with bigger bodies if I get another AFL opportunity.

"During the off-season I tried to put a but of weight on, roughly five or six kilos. I think that will help me.

“I think last year when I played down back I just used my athleticism to get me out of sticky situations.

“At the moment I’m working on getting into positions to defend dangerous spaces and that’ll benefit me going forward.”