Midfielder Nick Dal Santo says guarding against complacency will be a challenge for North this season as the club aims to build on last year’s efforts.
The 31-year-old had his first taste of finals football in St Kilda’s preliminary final losses in 2004 and 2005 and has shifted his mindset from his early September appearances.
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Dal Santo said while the Roos’ finals exposure last year will prove invaluable, it doesn’t equate to guaranteed success this season – as he witnessed in his time at the Saints.
“I think it’s a dangerous one assuming or thinking that you can just do it again because it’s so difficult, and I see this group similar to different stages of teams I’ve been in at St Kilda,” Dal Santo told NMFC.com.au.
“I remember in my early 20s when we made a couple of prelims and I was thinking, ‘It’s alright, we’ll eventually win one’. It doesn’t work out like that.
“It’s so much hard work that has to go into it, a lot of things have to go right (and) a little bit of luck can always help you come that time of the year.”
In addition to his clear change in mentality, Dal Santo identifies his “fear of failure” as one of his biggest motivations over his 285-game career.
Now in his 13th year in the AFL system, the 185cm slick left-footed midfielder has completed a full pre-season training block and is feeling “healthy and fit” as he embarks on his second season at Arden Street.
Dal Santo has established himself as a driving force in the midfield since joining the club as a restricted free agent in October 2013, playing every game and averaging 25 disposals.
But the number 15 said it has taken some time to adjust to life as a Roo.
“It was a tough transition only because St Kilda had been everything that I’d known and I had a lot of close mates there … but in some ways it was good, it kept me on my toes,” Dal Santo said.
Now thriving at North, Dal Santo is on a mission to nurture the next group of players and feels deeply entrenched in the Roos’ culture.
“I feel like I’m a part of the club compared to where I was this time last year,” he said.
“I feel like I’m a big part of the playing group and I feel like I’m definitely invested in it ... and I’ve really loved the club for the last 18 months.”
Despite having been in their shoes not so long ago, Dal Santo hasn’t had to offer fellow free agency acquisitions Jarrad Waite and Shaun Higgins much advice.
“I haven’t had to say much because of the way they’ve gone about it,” he said.
“It’s easy to say that they’ve trained well – but they really have.
“It’s easy to say that they’ve set a really good standard with their work ethic and the way they’ve gone about it has been really impressive – but it has.”