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Inside man

“We know what he can do when the ball is on the outside. It’s about blending that in with the ability to win his own ball."
He’s well known for his precision foot skills and ability to find space, but Brad McKenzie has spent the last fortnight adding an extra dimension to his game.

Predominantly used as an outside midfielder and winger at AFL level, the left-footer has made an impact as an inside midfielder for North Ballarat.  

According to Development Manager Ben Dyer, the move is aimed at making McKenzie more of a versatile threat.

“We know what he can do when the ball is on the outside. His ball use is exceptional,” Dyer told NMFC.com.au.

“It’s about blending that in with the ability to win his own ball, be strong in the contest. The best way to do that is to put him inside.”

With another five clearances against Coburg on Sunday, the extra work appears to be paying dividends for North’s number 2.

“He’s been working on a couple of techniques as an inside mid. Because he hasn’t played a lot there at the coalface, it’s not something that comes naturally to him.

“Things like manipulating the space around the contest, working your opponent into a position that’s to your advantage; it’s what he’s working into his game.”

McKenzie has enjoyed the challenge. After playing some of his junior football on the inside for Sturt, the opportunity to continue that development has been appreciated.

“The main thing for me is aggressive bodywork and the different types of bodywork that I can use to get space and win the ball,” he said following Sunday’s win over Coburg.

“During the week I’ve been working on that a lot, as well as also adapting to everything a match can throw up at you.”

“What I’ve learned so far is to start and engage, and then use the body-work when the ball is at its highest point. That way once the ball starts to come back down I’m in a better position than my opponent and I can work from there.”

Players who can deliver inside 50 under pressure are a luxury at most AFL clubs, so Brad Scott and his coaches will be hoping for further improvement from the 2011 draftee.

It’s a new situation for McKenzie to be in and out of the North Melbourne side. After a recall in Round 13 last season, he played 10 of the last 11 games.

Backing up with the first seven games of 2014, he’s has played just three of the last 11. Winning his spot back is all about not overcomplicating things.

“The only thing I can do is keep pushing my name forward by playing well here for the Roosters.

“Then once I’m back in the side I have to do everything I can to keep my spot.”