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Turning a corner

"You're not here to play VFL the whole time you're at the club."

Midfielder Brad McKenzie says he has turned the corner in recent weeks and has benefited from playing alongside close mate Ryan Bastinac over the past two matches.

The 22-year-old has regained his touch for VFL affiliate North Ballarat after overcoming a rib injury that sidelined him for three weeks in May.

McKenzie said he had continued his gradual improvement playing for the Roosters this season despite the injury setback.

"I feel like I'm getting my hands on the ball a lot more, I'm sharper … and my work rate is up the last few weeks," McKenzie told NMFC.com.au on Tuesday.

"The last month, I've been playing some solid football, and I've got to keep playing consistent footy and push my name forward.

"Last weekend, I felt really comfortable with my game."

McKenzie accumulated 24 touches, had eight handball receives and laid four tackles against Richmond's VFL side last Sunday, working hand in hand with fellow onballer Bastinac.

Senior development coach Gavin Brown labelled McKenzie's individual performance against the Tigers "his best game for the year" and "an all-round good game".

The 186cm ball-winner said playing alongside Bastinac in the past two games had helped him gain an upper edge over his opponents.

"'Basty' is one of my closer mates so I love playing with him," McKenzie said.

"He's been playing inside and really helpful to, not only me, but other North Ballarat players with positioning.

"I found a little bit of an extra gear down there."

McKenzie, who was recruited by the Roos with pick No.18 in the 2011 national draft, began the year playing across half-back but has spent more time in the midfield since returning from injury.

He said he had enjoyed performing a combination of roles this season, whether it be on the wing, as an inside midfielder or across half-back.

"I like reading the play or being in the mix of it," he said.

"That's where I'm most comfortable – in and around the ball or when I'm at half-back I can read the play."

McKenzie said he had his eyes firmly set on breaking into the Roos' squad in the second half of the season.

"You're not here to play VFL the whole time you're at the club," he said.

"Playing AFL is what drives me and (I'm) working hard on the track and translating those things into a game, and that's just going to get you a game at AFL level."

Improving the tackling component of his game and strength in and around the contest has been top of the agenda.

"Over the last three weeks, 'Browny' [Gavin Brown] has been really happy with my tackling," McKenzie said.

"I've been getting more tackles per game, improving my footwork (and being) sharper at the contests – it's starting to all come together."

Out of contract at season's end, the booming left-footer said he would not let any uncertainty about his future distract him.

"It's in the back of your head but the only way I can get around that is by playing good footy and putting pressure on selection," he said.

McKenzie acknowledged he had also made more of an effort to switch off and unwind when away from Arden Street.

"I'm trying to do stuff at night or keep my mind off footy to freshen up, and when I come to the club then I can really knuckle down," he said.

"I like going for a hit of golf with Basty and also playing a little bit of guitar."

RELATED: McKenzie player profile