It’s something all players strive for, all coaches expect, and every supporter wants.
And for the newly re-signed Kyle Langford, 2020 proved to be the breakout season which solidified his standing as a regular and valued member of the Bombers’ best 22.
Missing just one game through suspension, the 23-year-old won admirers in his 16 matches for his ability to perform not only as a big-bodied midfielder, but a dangerous forward.
Drafted from the Northern Knights with pick No.17 in the 2014 NAB AFL Draft as a forward, Langford could have been earmarked as a key forward exclusively given the similar height he shares with fellow AFL talls Jack Darling (191 cm) and Jack Riewoldt (193cm).
He modelled his game on Hawthorn spearhead Jack Gunston (193cm) as a junior, averaging eight marks a game and booting nine goals from 13 matches as a forward in his top-age TAC Cup year.
But it was always the Bombers' mission to build Langford's minutes in the engine room and split his time between midfield and forward.
And while he had to bide his time and learn his craft in the VFL, the plan came to fruition in 2020.
Increasing his minutes as an inside midfielder, Langford set a career-high for disposals (18) per game in shortened quarters, averaging 4.1 marks and 1.6 stoppage clearances.
His standout performance came against West Coast at the Gabba in round 15, where he tallied a career-high 29 disposals and led all comers for contested possessions (10) and clearances (six).
With forwards Jake Stringer, Jayden Laverde, Joe Daniher, Orazio Fantasia and James Stewart missing through injury at various periods this season, Langford stepped up to contribute in front of goal.
When moved forward, he took a total of 15 marks inside 50 and had 28 shots at goal, both ranked elite by Champion Data.
His total of 11 goals (equal third for Essendon) was ranked above average, and so were his score involvements (61) and contested marks (eight).
Langford's career-high fourth-place finish in the Crichton Medal was a feather in the cap of a player in his sixth season, who was entrusted with several roles and to perform them strongly.
Dons fans will be hoping the 81-gamer can continue to be a part of a young group of players who’ll build on their consistency to help drive on-field results in 2021 and beyond.