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Primed for midfield

He's spent most of his AFL career as defender, and Luke McDonald is hoping the attributes he's learnt in the back half can help him as he seeks a more permanent midfield move. 

Injuries to some key on-ballers saw the Roos' number 11 find himself further up the field at times in 2017, and after arguably his best season yet, he's looking for more. 

“We had a fair few injuries last year, and we were getting pretty bare there for a couple of weeks,” McDonald told North Media.

“There’s a lot of depth in the midfield this year.

“We have some really good inside midfielders in Ziebs (Jack Ziebell), Cunners (Ben Cunnington), Froggy (Trent Dumont) and now having Benny Jacobs back.

“Hopefully Jy (Simpkin) and I can complement that group and give them a spell when they need it.”

McDonald believes the ability to be versatile is a major asset in the modern-day AFL footballer.

“All of the midfield boys can go forward or back, so I think that versatility is becoming so important in AFL footy, because if you can only play one role you’re probably not going to last very long.”

Spending more time involved with the midfield group, McDonald has had a first hand look at the new crop, and believes that fans could expect to see some new names sooner rather than later.

“It’s definitely exciting to see some more young midfielders coming through and hopefully they can develop a bit and hopefully see some senior action maybe earlier than they would have in previous years,” he said. 

“When I first came into the team, the team was pretty set, and it felt that maybe one or two players could change, but that’s not the case this year”

It’s not just the midfield group that McDonald is expecting to have to fight for their spot.

“Everyone would think they are a fair sniff to play in Round 1 which is really good.

“This year it’s wide open, and there are a lot of guys putting their hand up in training, so it’s probably going to come down to the JLT (Community Series).

“There’s probably 30 guys who would be thinking they are a chance to play Round 1, so there are going to be some unlucky guys, but it’s a strong and competitive environment to be in.”

While we may have heard plenty about players like Paul Ahern and Luke Davies-Uniacke tearing up the track so far in 2018, there are some other names catching McDonald’s eye.

“Benny Jacobs hasn’t missed a beat out on the track, you wouldn’t know that he’s missed two years of footy, and it’s awesome to see him back out there,” he added. 

“Nick Larkey has taken another step forward which is good to see.

“All of those young key defenders (Sam Durdin, Ben McKay, Dan Nielson) are taking big strides forward, which has come from Taz (Robbie Tarrant) and Scooter’s (Scott Thompson) leadership.

“All of those second-year guys really have seemed to have taken it up a notch, and that’s really exciting for us heading into the year.

“It’s going to be really interesting to see who gets picked come Round 1, because I’ve got no idea.”

McDonald will line up for the Roos' AFLX team on Friday night at Etihad Stadium.