It’s fair to say emerging defender Josh Rotham had a breakout season in 2019.
The 21-year-old made his highly anticipated debut in one of the biggest matches of the season – West Coast’s first grand final rematch with Collingwood at the MCG – and made three more appearances for the club’s AFL side throughout the year.
When he wasn’t getting it done at the highest level, Rotham was leading the way for the Eagles’ inaugural WAFL side.
The third-year player was a pillar in the state league side’s back line and capped off the year by claiming the WAFL Eagles Trademark Award, which recognises the most valuable player according to his peers.
In all, it was a campaign that some young footballers might find hard to top.
But if the West Perth product’s pre-season drive is anything to go by, 2020 might be even bigger for the versatile backman.
“I think you’ve got to look to build every year,” Rotham said.
“This is my fourth year in the system, so I’m hoping to get some more senior games under my belt.
“That would be great, but it all starts with what we are doing now in the pre-season.
“If I can apply what I’m working on now to practice games that will put me in good stead to perform come season time.”
Rotham is likely to get an early read on his progress this pre-season.
With twin towers Jeremy McGovern (heel) and Tom Barrass (foot) working their back from injury, Rotham will be expected to line up on the club’s most dangerous forwards during match simulation exercises.
“It gives me an opportunity to step up in the pre-season and play a little bit taller for a bit,” Rotham said.
“We all know the calibre of players (McGovern and Barrass) are and I’m sure they’ll be back by round one, but having the opportunity to test myself over pre-season is good.
“I’m still working on playing on talls and smalls. Having that versatility, that will be what I’m trying to work on this pre-season.
“My main goal is to contain the smalls but have a crack matching up on the talls.
“I think if I can have that versatility I can improve at senior level. I’m just building on that and my rounded game by getting fitter, stronger and faster.”
As motivated as Rotham is to sharpen his defensive craft, he is also eager to hone his leadership skills.
In spite of his age, Rotham was at times among the WAFL Eagles’ most experienced defenders in 2019 and was required to steer the defensive line around the paddock.
It might not have come naturally at first, but Rotham embraced the responsibility and now he is keen to develop that side of his game.
“It was funny last year, for a couple of WAFL games there I was the most senior player in the back line, so I had to work on my leadership,” he acknowledged.
“It just sort of came about that way. I do enjoy mentoring the younger boys. It sounds funny saying that, because I still feel like a young boy.
“It’s something I’m working on and will continue to do for the next few years.”