After a position change reignited his career in 2021, Jayden Laverde is looking to establish himself as a leader in the Bombers’ backline and become one of the competition’s respected stoppers.
Although uncertain at first about the move down back, with the support of Ben Rutten, Laverde committed to the role and quickly developed confidence in his game.
“It was good. It was obviously career-changing for me and I was grateful to be given a go back there,” Laverde said.
“The challenge of training down back all pre-season and just committing to the role was the main challenge and ‘Truck’ (Ben Rutten) held me pretty accountable to that.
“‘Truck’ obviously thought he could see something in me down there, so it was him giving me confidence to back myself in and back my strength to get the job done.”
The move paid dividends for the team and the 25-year-old, who played all of the Bombers’ 23 games and had his efforts recognised by his peers with two honours.
Laverde was awarded the most improved player and the inaugural McCracken Medal, an initiative introduced by Rutten in recognition of the club’s founding family, the McCrackens.
Following each game, every member of the Bombers’ playing group voted on which player demonstrated the club’s values, with the McCracken Medal awarded to the player with the most votes at the end of the season.
Laverde was grateful to be recognised by his peers, especially as it meant the hard work he put in to move down back was appreciated and worthwhile.
“It’s a great honour, obviously to get an award from your teammates is a huge honor,” he said.
“It’s great to know they are thinking of you on game day and the work that I’m putting in is getting recognised by them, so super thankful to the boys for that.
“The first couple of games it took me a bit just to find my feet a bit. But from then I just added little bits into my game and tried to be a bit more confident and take a few more risks but I think I grew into my game as the year went on.”
As Laverde heads into his eighth season, he has used this pre-season to further refine the more intricate parts of his game, including developing into more of a leader across the Bombers’ backline.
“I’ve been working on small intricate parts of my game that I want to get better and that will take my game to the next level,” he said.
“I’ve been focusing on some craft stuff and developing into a little bit more of a leadership role down back and to help the boys down there too.”
At 193cm, Laverde has become a dominant figure in the Bombers’ rearguard, but doesn’t want to become complacent following his breakout season.
Laverde averaged 13.8 disposals, 1.5 tackles and 2.2 intercept marks last year, but he’s determined to improve and be held in the same regard as the League’s elite defenders.
“I want to build on last year and take my game to another level,” he said.
“Obviously you’ve got to keep striving and wanting to improve so I want to take my game to another level and hopefully become a notable defender in the competition.”
Although Laverde’s improvement was a standout of 2021, he is most excited about the growth of his younger teammates in the midst of the club’s 150th year.
“Just our improvement, we’ve got a great list and a lot of young guys coming through and I think there’s a lot of growth in our game,” he said.
“Hopefully we can translate that into games and go a lot further than last year. The boys have been really good out there and I think our training has picked up from last year, which is good to say.”