There’s been a lot written in the media recently about where I might - or might not - be playing next season and whatever happens, I’m already preparing for it to be the season I show who I really am.
The start to my footy career hasn’t lived up to what I planned when I was picked up by Richmond in the draft three-years-ago – and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear me say that’s been challenging.
So far my record shows I have played ‘only’ 19 games in three seasons, and I’m painfully aware there’s been more written about my injuries and setbacks than any on-field achievements.
However, I’ve learnt a lot from those 19 matches, the first lesson was the reality of footy. I’ve found out the hard way it’s a tough sport and anyone who pulls on the boots needs to accept injuries are part of the deal.
I’ve also learnt to appreciate playing the game. You learn a lot about yourself in rehab because it is so frustrating . . . there’s a sense of Groundhog Day in having to do the same monotonous exercises over and over and over . . . but the fact I’ve refused to give up ought to suggest to even the harshest critic I’m determined to make it.
Some of the guys I play alongside at Richmond have proven to be positive forces, especially Reece Conca, who has helped put things into perspective whenever I’ve been sidelined.
I’m grateful he’s always been available for our deep and meaningful conversations and that he’s also been willing to draw upon his own experiences.
Hearing him talk about his personal trials and tribulations allowed for me to see there’s light at the end of what’s sometimes been a long and dark tunnel.
As for Richmond, the club, regardless of what the future holds I’m so grateful that the Tigers saw something in me all those years ago.
Richmond has allowed for me to appreciate what it takes to make the cut. The coaches have – and they still do – make time for me and passed on words of wisdom that I know will hold me in good stead for the rest of my career.
The other day I was asked what I offer a team and my response was “vibrancy.”
Like anyone else I want security and stability so I’d certainly like for my future to be sorted out as quickly as possible.
Until then I’d like for those people who’ve supported me through thick and thin to know I’m training hard, and that it’s my every intention to be playing top-level football next season.
The good news is that I’m heading into the summer fresh and fit . . . something that I’m afraid hasn’t been the ‘norm’ over the last three years.
I’m using this time wisely, by working hard on a few aspects of my game the Tigers want me to focus on.
I’ve linked up with a sprint coach and also a personal trainer to improve my speed and endurance.
I’m doing a sprint session once a week, endurance sessions twice a week and getting smashed with a brutal cross-training session once a week.
While I finish most days feeling knackered I’m pleased to say I feel a sense of enormous satisfaction in knowing that physically I’m getting to the level where I want to be.
Something that makes me dig deep during each of these sessions is knowing how much I want to play in the AFL.
I’m motivated to keep going when it’d be so easy to give up because, fitness-wise, this is the first opportunity I’ve ever had to catch up to the other players.
You see, I’m excited to think I might be able to show everyone what I’m capable of with a full pre-season under my belt.
The other day I was asked what I offer a team and my response was “vibrancy.” I’m only 21, one of my strengths is that I can get around the team. I believe I’m skilful and know that I can definitely make things happen at centre-forward.
From having to bounce back from the setback of injuries, and from being hammered in these extra fitness sessions I’m doing I also realise I have an insatiable desire to prove myself as a consistent performer in the AFL.
I’m putting my best foot forward for 2017 - and beyond - I see this as the beginning of my career and I am putting in the hard yards to ensure I’ll be ready for it.
- Ben Lennon, exclusively for Sportsta.