Midfielder Brad McKenzie says he is in the best form of his career and is ready to feature in his first AFL game since round 17 last year.
The 22-year-old has not put a foot wrong for VFL affiliate North Ballarat this season and has been rewarded with a senior call-up in Friday night's clash against Richmond.
In a clear sign he caused a few headaches for rival clubs, McKenzie had to deal with a tagger in last Saturday's game against Coburg but still managed to finish with 21 touches, including 14 contested.
McKenzie said he was "excited" to take part in his first game for North this season and felt he had earned his spot.
"I've been playing my best footy over the last eight to 10 weeks through the midfield, so my consistency has been a massive improvement for me," McKenzie told NMFC.com.au.
"I've been performing my best on a consistent basis which I probably haven't previously done.
"I've worked pretty hard in the VFL and I've put up some pretty solid performances, so I feel I deserve an opportunity."
McKenzie, who was recruited with pick No.18 in the 2011 national draft, began the year playing across half-back, but a rib injury in May interrupted his early season form and sidelined him for three weeks.
It was around that time when North coach Brad Scott told McKenzie to be prepared to take on extra midfield responsibilities – a position where he played most of his junior football in South Australia.
McKenzie said he had not looked back after sitting down with the Roos' coach.
"Ever since then I've been working on what will make me a good midfielder – my work-rate, body work, change of pace, footwork, and I'm just going into games with the same focuses," he said.
Scott said McKenzie had improved both the inside and outside components of his game in the VFL this year.
"We've always known that Brad's an elite kick of the footy and he can play some outside roles, but the versatility of being able to play inside as well means that he becomes a more complete player," Scott said.
"Even though we probably saw him as more of a distributor at AFL level, at VFL level we wanted to see if he could win the ball in close and he's been able to do that."
McKenzie also received plenty of advice about his midfield role from North's development coaches – Gavin Brown, Ben Dyer and Jarred Moore – and high performance manager Steve Saunders.
"We've been sitting down and figuring out what would be some good focuses for me going into the game," McKenzie said.
"I've been doing speed work with Saunders and what he's been teaching me has translated into games, and I'm always being reminded by the development coaches about what I need to do before each game."
The 186cm accurate left-footer said he was feeling a little nervous ahead of his first senior game for the year, but was as prepared as ever to take the field and perform his required role for the team.
"My last game was in the late rounds of last year so I haven't played at the level for a while, but I feel comfortable now," McKenzie said.
"I was speaking to Ben Dyer yesterday and he said I should be going into the game with a lot of confidence, which I believe I've built up in the VFL."
Dyer said McKenzie deserved his call-up after a near faultless season with the Roosters.
"(We're) looking to see if he can go out there with a lot of confidence, which he should have, because his VFL form has been the best it's been in the last couple of years," he said.
"Also just to play with the sense that he feels that he belongs at that level and if he does that, there's no reason to suggest he can't impact the game at that level as he has been doing in the VFL."