Nothing comes for free in the AFL. Players don’t suddenly win a spot in the team, suddenly get better or suddenly lead from the front. Everything has to be earned by every player.

For Tarryn Thomas it’s no different.  The third-year player has been made to earn his time in the midfield, and now he has it, he’s not letting go.

Fresh off of a career-high 24 disposals against the Western Bulldogs, 2021 has seen Thomas improve his per game averages in disposals, goals, marks, clearances and score involvements.

Now a legitimate danger running through the centre of the park, few have been better placed to see Thomas’ steady rise than Jy Simpkin, with the pair forming a close bond off the park.

Simpkin says fans are now beginning to see the results of the extra work his teammate has been putting in on the training track.

“The biggest thing about ‘Taz’ over the last 12 months has been his willingness to learn and get better,” Simpkin said in an upcoming Member Q & A, presented by AIA.

“He’s doing all the extras after training sessions … after every main training he’s on the side of the field … doing a bit of extra running extra repeat sprints.

“It’s really awesome to see and it’s coming out in his footy now.”

A key component of David Noble’s game plan is player versatility, with the likes of Luke McDonald moving onto the wing and Aaron Hall moving down back key examples of the new approach.

Thomas’ ability to be a damaging presence both in the centre of the park and in the forward 50 bodes well for his continued importance to the team according to Simpkin.

“He can go in the midfield for five or ten minutes, spin forward for five minutes, and he’s got the ability to hit the scoreboard as well,” Simpkin said.

“He’s got a deadly kick and you know he’s going to hit them from anywhere, so he’s been really good this year.

“Everyone knows he has silky smooth skills and when he gets the ball something happens.”

With the final third of 2021 home and away season now underway, North will be looking for as strong a finish to the season as possible to use as a launching pad heading into 2022.

With the experience gained so far this season after an injury-interrupted 2020, Thomas’ next six months are crucial, according to Simpkin.

“Hopefully over this off-season and next pre-season he can keep building that base and get the fitness right up,” he said.

“I think if he keeps working hard and doing what he does, the more time he gets in the midfield.

“[It’s] very similar to ‘LDU’ (Luke Davies-Uniacke), they’re going to complete our midfield and be really damaging.”