Young gun Andrew McGrath says he is more capable than ever of taking on a role as an inside midfielder after developing more strength in the pre-season.
The exciting Bomber has played predominantly across half-back but has been slowly increasing his time on the ball in his three seasons at The Hangar, and he believes he is now ready to take the next step.
“I’m training with the midfield group – I have been for the last couple of years – I think that’s just going to be a natural progression,” McGrath said on Tuesday.
“I can play at both ends of the ground and through the midfield, so wherever I need to play I’ll be capable to play there, but I think the ideal role is (as a) midfielder.
“It’s a fine balance; you want to get as fit as you can and as strong as you can.
“Sometimes those two don’t work hand in hand, but I feel like I’m stronger than I was last year and more capable to play that role.”
The former No. 1 draft pick showed no shortage of promising signs pushing further up the ground in 2019, closing out the year with career-high averages for disposals (21), contested possessions (6.7), inside 50s (2.35), clearances (1.6), goal assists (0.4) and total goals (nine).
“That’s always the goal; you always want to improve every single year. In my first there years I’ve been building and I’m hoping to build again, whatever that may look like,” he said.
“I’m very deliberate in my practice and what I want to achieve long-term. Ideally, we have a successful year as a team and my performance just goes with that.”
The athletic 21-year-old was one of Essendon’s shining lights in the side’s disappointing 55-point elimination final loss to West Coast, showing terrific composure in a classy performance that highlighted his bright future.
He gathered 30 disposals, six score involvements, five inside 50s, four rebound 50s, four clearances and a goal on that occasion and he said he took comfort out of his efforts in the high-pressure finals environment.
“I had one of my better games for the season, which is comforting knowing that you can perform on the biggest stage and against one of the best opponents in the league,” he said.
“But you move on from that pretty quickly and you get back into what you need to do to improve and be a better team next year.
“It feels comforting that I can compete at the level and play good finals football, but let’s hope we can go a little bit further and play and hopefully win one in the near future.”
New midfield and team offence coach Blake Caracella will be a key figure for McGrath as he strives to lock down a position on the ball this year.
The 2000 premiership-winning Bomber returned to Essendon following an extremely successful stint at Richmond where he played his part in the Tigers’ 2017 and 2019 flags, and McGrath said Caracella’s knowledge has proven immediately influential.
“It’s been great, Blake’s been an awesome mentor in the short period of time that I’ve had with him.
“He’s obviously seen it all at Richmond and coached some amazing players and an amazing group. To pick his brain on certain things about what they do and ask him about certain players that I idolised growing up is something pretty cool.
“He’s added a different twist to our midfield and has a few new ideas, so it’s very refreshing and we’re really enjoying working with him.”
Just over a fortnight remains before the Dons return to the field in the Marsh Community Series against the Eagles on February 27.