In the lead-up to the 2021 season, Dons Digital is checking in with some of the Bombers' promising youngsters as they strive to make their mark in 2021.

Next up is emerging midfielder Brayden Ham, who takes us through his desire to play as an inside mid, the hardest aspects of pre-season and what he's setting out to achieve this year.

Catch up on previous chats with Sam Draper, Ned Cahill and Harrison Jones.

Brayden, how’s pre-season been for you so far? 

"It’s been good. Obviously, we’ve got a short and limited amount of time this year. Last year we almost had a double pre-season. Everyone’s cracking in well and I feel for myself, I’ve been able to increase my endurance and put on a few kilos, so I feel like I’m flying around."

What’s been the biggest challenge during this pre-season? 

"Probably that limited amount of time. Every session you feel like you’re absolutely gassed after it and you don’t know how you’re going to get up for the next one, but you always find a way whether you recover well or you get your sleep in, all that type of stuff has been very important and everyone’s on the same page about it." 

Have you felt you’ve been able to adapt to AFL pre-seasons easier through being a top-age draftee?

"I feel like my top-age year at the (Geelong) Falcons was almost like the rigours of an AFL pre-season, so I felt like I was able to go in pretty strongly to my first pre-season in the AFL. You do usually see some first-year players missing out on a bit of stuff, but I feel like I was already equipped to go through all of the drills in the early days, and I feel that’s how I started getting games early on, because I was already pretty fit. It’s been handy to have that extra season under my belt to get into it, I think." 

Brayden Ham on the track this pre-season. (Photo: AFL Photos)

What’s an attribute you’ve personally noticed which has drastically improved over this pre-season? 

"I think last year, I had the speed and the endurance to mix it up on the outside, but now I’m trying to mix it all together. I had a bit of a crack at an inside midfield position at under-18s level and I felt like I was pretty comfortable there, so now I’m trying to bring it over to here. I’ve been able to take part in a couple of drills on the inside and use my strength, which I’ve had to work on a fair bit, but I feel like I’m also at a solid enough level to have a crack in there. Coming into the club at 68kg in my first year and now at about 77kg, I'm still running alright."

How competitive has it been between yourself and the other midfielders for those limited spots in the side?

"It’s a healthy competition. You’ve obviously got some highly-classed inside midfielders and sometimes you have your doubts on whether you’ll get a game in there or not at times. But there’s been opportunities for me on the outside in that wing sort of role and I’ve really enjoyed that and it’s something I think can go on again this year and I can further my craft out there. There’s obviously that healthy competition and everyone is making each other better."

Last year, how did it feel to double the number of games you played in your debut season?

"There were early days last year where I genuinely felt a part of the side. From about round three to about six or seven, when we first entered the hub, I felt like I was properly in the side. I started to wear and tear a little bit, and I did miss out on a few games which was pretty flattening, but I managed to find my feet again at the end of the season and play my best games later on. I was happy with that and hopefully that’s a stepping stone into this year." 

Brayden Ham produced impressive performances as a wingman in 2020. (Photo: AFL Photos)

What are some of the things you learnt from last season? 

"Probably adjusting to whatever can get thrown at you. AFL is obviously a hard sport and it’s non-stop, but I really enjoy it and it’s a massive passion of mine. I probably just learnt how much I love the game and I wasn’t complaining at all in the hub. I’m happy to do that again, whether it’s the case or not."

Is there anyone in particular who’s taken you under their wing this pre-season to help you improve? 

"This pre-season it’s been guys like (Darcy) Parish, Zach Merrett and 'Shiely' (Dylan Shiel) who have been teaching me those little patterns and body movements on the inside to try and make me confident in wherever I may play."

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Off the track, take us through who you’re living with and what they’re like. 

"I’m living with big 'BZT' (Brandon Zerk-Thatcher) and Zach Reid, the new draftee. If I was to say which one’s worse than the other, it’d probably be BZT, because he’s got a couple of strange attributes that take a bit of time to get used to. But overall, there’s good camaraderie within the household, which is nice."

If we were chatting in 10 months' time, what are some of the goals you’d like to have reached and accomplished in 2021?

"Hopefully to get a full season in, I think. I’d love to play every AFL game this year. Whether that’s the case or not, I’m not going to be completely down on myself if I don’t, but if I get my opportunity, I want it to be at the highest of my ability. I don’t want to be complacent about any of the games I’m in. I want to keep building and keep getting stronger. Running out every game of the season would be nice and to make sure I’m part of that best 22."