Sydney Swans defender Andrejs Everitt is determined to move from the fringe into the thick of it this September.
Leading into 2013, the 24-year-old had not strung together more than eight consecutive games in six seasons and had not played in an AFL final.
This season, Everitt has managed to turn it around and has played 15 games, including 12 of the last 13 matches, and is on track to line up in a final for the first time.
Standing at 194cm and with the gift of pace, Everitt said this season he had more confidence than ever that he could play an important role for the Swans.
“This year for me it’s about just enjoying it and also just running and using the ball and kicking it well,” Everitt told sydneyswans.com.au.
“I think my biggest strength is that I’m 6’4’’ and I’m able to run pretty quick and am reasonably fit.
“You don’t really see that sort of player often so I think the coaches have just put that in my head.
“They’ve just stressed that if I work hard and use my run off the half back line then I’ll be able to play an important role for the team.”
Taken by the Western Bulldog at pick 11 in the 2006 National Draft, Everitt had all the makings of a top AFL player and was given Bulldogs’ legend Chris Grant’s number three guernsey in his second season.
After just 36 games across four seasons at the Dogs, the Swans picked up the young player at the end of the 2010 season with the hope of Everitt fulfilling a role in the club’s defence.
While things didn’t go to plan in his first couple of years in Sydney, injuries and retirements within the Swans’ back six gave Everitt another chance to grab a senior opportunity this season.
“I got traded up to Sydney to be a defender,” he said.
“In my first year it was going OK and then things sort of weren’t falling into place as well as what the club and myself had hoped.
“They threw me up forward for a year and a half and unluckily, but sort of luckily for me, when Marty Mattner stepped down and guys like AJ (Alex Johnson) and LRT (Lewis Roberts-Thomson) got injured this year, that the coaches had the faith to put me back there and it’s really paid off.
“I think I’ve just been a lot more consistent this year and I think I’m on the right track and I’m enjoying it.”
Everitt is not the only player vying to make a mark this upcoming finals’ series, with a number of fringe and younger players hoping to have an impact at the pointy end of the season.
The Swans have utilised 34 players this season, including five debutants in Dane Rampe, Tom Mitchell, Jed Lamb, Brandon Jack and Xavier Richards and have been without key players Adam Goodes, Lewis Jetta, Sam Reid and Lewis Roberts-Thomson for the majority of the season.
Everitt said this year’s injury list has opened the door for a handful of young Swans who have all had a taste of senior football.
“Last year the club didn’t have a lot of injuries, but this year with a few more injuries it gave a bit of hope to the fringe players like myself and some of the young boys,” he said.
“You wouldn’t have thought six months ago that Brandon Jack would be playing seniors and the same with Jed Lamb and guys like that, so it’s definitely a credit to all the boys.”
Everitt said he shared a bond with fellow perennial fringe player, Jesse White, who has played 10 games this season and is rediscovering some of his best form.
“It’s sort of not a good thing to have in common that we were on the fringe, but before every game we just give each other a handshake and just say ‘Mate, just go out there and enjoy it’,” he said.
“I think that’s the thing that we’re both doing at the moment, we’re playing pretty reasonable football and we’re enjoying it as well.
“That’s definitely the best part about it.”
With two huge matches against top sides Geelong and Hawthorn coming up, Everitt is remaining grounded and said he is focused on maintaining the form that has resulted in his career-best season.
“I’ve just got to strip it back to what I’ve been doing the last 15 weeks or so that I’ve been playing,” he said.
“I just need to treat the last couple of games like every other game and don’t get caught up in the fact that it’s finals time soon.
“They are definitely big games coming up, so I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“Coming into the season, which is my seventh season now, I think every year except for my first year the team that I’ve been involved with has actually played finals but I’m yet to play one so I’m doing what I can to make it happen.”