BRANT Colledge is coming off the best and most consistent season of his career in 2018 and now with his body remaining sound entering 2019, he desperately wants to help end the finals drought of Perth.
It is likely only a constant run of unlucky injuries that led to Colledge's time on West Coast's list coming to an end following the 2016 season having played just three AFL games.
He continued to struggle physically back in the WAFL full-time with his original club Perth too but that all changed in 2018 and with a sound body, his form went through the roof.
Largely because his body hadn’t allowed him to play a lot of time in the midfield, Colledge found himself pigeon-holed as a half-forward for several years and that's where he started his 2018 season with the Demons.
But with his fitness improving and both his body and form allowing, he spent more and more time in the midfield and alongside Clint Jones, Corey Yeo and Corey Byrne, that became one of the strengths for the Demons who ended up just a game and percentage out of the top five.
Colledge ended up winning the fairest and best award for Perth in a much-improved season that gives plenty of hope that 2019 can now be the year that their finals drought ends.
Perth hasn’t played in a WAFL finals campaign since 1997 and hasn’t won a premiership since 1977, but the signs are promising that coach Earl Spalding has things on the right track.
The losses have been limited over summer to Devin McFarlane and Laine Wilkins as the only real regulars from 2018 while the injury-plagued Spencer White never got going in his time with Perth having come across from St Kilda.
Gordon Narrier, Jacob Payne and Matthew Rogers both return while Chris Bryan comes across from Subiaco, giving further reason for optimism over a strong season for the Demons.
Colledge is one of those at Perth that is confident the Demons can take the next step in 2019 and that coach Spalding has them on the right path to embrace those increased expectations on them.
"We realise there's a lot of hard work and water to go under the bridge, and we have to focus on the job at hand if we are going to achieve any success. I take it as a positive that we've some expectations about us this year, I think it's something we should all embrace," Colledge told 91.3 SportFM.
"Duke (Spalding) is obviously the leader of our playing group and our club, and he's been great personally and for the group with the way he pushes us forward.
"We know that if we keep sticking to the things he's been teaching us in pre-season that hopefully there's some success around the corner.
"We all understand it's been a while for the Demons fans and supporters since we've had a successful side, so that's what we've been working hard all pre-season on becoming. We want to deliver some success back to the club."
Colledge doesn’t see any reason for Perth to look to change too much about the way they play the game either, it's all about executing what they want to do better if they hope to rise up the ladder further coming from the wooden spoon in 2017 to just miss out on finals in 2018.
"We've always tried to pride ourselves on being that blue-collar, workmanlike kind of team with a bit of flash on the outside as well," he said.
"I don’t think that will change too much, it will just come down to guys understanding their roles a bit better and really bonding together to hopefully push us forward this year."
Looking back on his standout 2018 season, Colledge has no doubt that the fact that he was able to move more into the midfield was on the back of his body staying sound.
He's always seen himself as a midfielder, it's all been about being healthy and fit enough to run through the middle and with a big body, clean hands and an ability to use the ball in tight and out in space to good effect, he is difficult to shutdown for an opposition team.
Colledge ended up averaging 26.4 disposals a game including having six games with 30 or more possessions in what was the best and most consistent season of his 78-game WAFL career.
On top of winning the Butcher Medal, he was named to the WAFL Team of the Year, and he couldn’t have been happier to spend such significant time in the midfield finally.
"Especially when I first started playing WAFL footy I played a lot more up forward when I was 18 or 19 and coming through the ranks so I was always naturally seen as a forward," Colledge said.
"Then I had a couple of years at East Perth where I got a go in the midfield and I really enjoyed that. I think that's where I'm playing my best footy at the moment and when I get my fitness up, that allows me to go into the midfield and have a bit of a role there.
"I've done most of the pre-season this year and hopefully I'll be fit and firing from the start of the season in the midfield."
It was a tough run of injuries that likely ended Colledge's AFL career prematurely and that delayed him from playing the type of football he was capable of until 2018, but he never let it get him down and is now glad he continued to battle back each and every time.
"Injuries are just part of footy and I know a lot of guys say that who have had a few, but it's a very physical game and a lot of guys pick up injuries," Colledge said.
"I've had my fair share and I've had quite a few different surgeries, but you just have to fight back from that and take each one as it comes to get back stronger than ever. It's obviously not a great part of the game but I'm quite used to it now."