Essendon senior coach John Worsfold says veteran David Zaharakis' persistence paid off in the Bombers' 14-point win over the Kangaroos at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night.
Shifted to a new role as a half-forward who helps set up the team defensively and cover for his teammates, Zaharakis had made a quiet start to the 2020 season, averaging just 10 disposals a game prior to round six.
But in the absence of injured goalkicker Jake Stringer, the 30-year-old shone against North Melbourne with 20 disposals and a game-high three goals.
Worsfold said Zaharakis was going through a period of adjustment and that it would be naive to look purely at his numbers this season.
"He's been playing a role that's a little bit new for him. We're just trying to put it all together," Worsfold said.
"I talked about Brayden Ham last week. He's had a couple of games where he's been quiet on the wing because we haven't transitioned the ball well away from the contest, which has left him out in space. The last couple of weeks he's really showing what he can do when we play the way we're trying to play, and Zaharakis is the same. He's been playing a key role for us without getting much of the footy but tonight he got his rewards. It was his turn."
The Bombers moved into the top four with a game in hand on Saturday night, having won four matches from five starts.
Normally known for their speed and rebound off half-back, they've put a strong emphasis on pressure and contested work in the early rounds, leading the competition for tackles per game and sitting third for least points conceded.
Worsfold said he was proud of the way his charges were buying in to the new game-plan, even with key players missing.
"A lot of the stuff we're doing is a bit of a change on what we've done in the past. We're going to stick at it and keep believing in it and getting better at it," he said.
"We're working to a system and committing to playing that way. Everyone has a role to play in that system. The personnel may look a bit different but they're playing similar roles. Sometimes Jacob Townsend is playing undersized as a key forward, but we know how hard he competes."
Essendon will have a six-day break before its second consecutive game at Metricon Stadium, facing the Western Bulldogs on Friday night.
Worsfold said the Bombers were embracing life in their Gold Coast hub, with 42 players making the trip north.
"We knew we'd be coming up here, basically unpacking bags and getting ready to train and preparing to play," he said.
"We're here to play footy and prepare well, and all the other stuff just moulds into that."