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Jetta’s career-changing year

Matt Burgan  October 22, 2014 11:05 AM

Neville Jetta season review Neville Jetta reflects on his best AFL season
AFL 2014 Training - Melbourne 080714

Neville Jetta of the Demons in action during a Melbourne Demons training session at Gosch's Paddock, Melbourne on July 8, 2014. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)

THIS time a year ago, Neville Jetta’s football future was up in the air.

Delisted by Melbourne, Jetta was initially unsure of his future, until he was given a reprieve and redrafted via the NAB AFL Rookie Draft – filling the club’s final spot on its list. 

From there, Jetta took his second chance with both hands, capping off his best AFL season with a ninth placing in Melbourne’s best and fairest award – despite missing six matches. The small defender said it had been a massive journey and one that had taken a lot of hard work.

“The footy club wasn’t sure which way they were going to go and if they were going to keep me or not,” he told Dee TV

“There was a lot of downtime between that exit interview [in September 2013] until when they said they were actually going to pick me up again.

“Today, there is a lot more positive stuff going on from the coaches, which is completely different. I couldn’t be happier with the way that it’s turned around.

“It’s great looking back on what I’ve been able to achieve. Ultimately, I’ve played some really good footy and now I get to be at the club for two more years [after signing a new contract this year].”

The 24-year-old said he was “pretty upset” about the whole experience, before bouncing back to win his place on the list – and ultimately secure a position in the best 22.

“I just had to move on and see it as another opportunity to play AFL football, which I still wanted to do at the time. I just tried to look at the positive side of things as I do a lot and use the opportunity to get back onto the list and challenge myself to say that I can play AFL footy,” he said. 

“It was definitely a kick in the guts to be put back on the rookie list but it didn’t matter in the end. I see myself as a senior player at the football club. It didn’t matter if I was on the rookie list or senior list. I’ve been here a long time and I felt that I could play senior footy so that’s how I went about training over the pre-season.

“When Casey games came around I played like I wanted to be in an AFL side. It happened pretty quickly but I just took the opportunities that came.”

But Jetta said his round 23 performance against Bulldog livewire forward Luke Dahlhaus in Melbourne’s final match of the 2013 season was the start of turning his career around.

“Around the time of that last game, I’d been stuck down at Casey for a while and we were playing some pretty good footy down there. However [former coach] Neil Craig wanted me to really earn my spot on the team and didn’t want to just give it to me too easily,” he said.

“It was also Aaron’s Davey’s last game, so I wanted to go out and enjoy the time with him. I was almost trying to enjoy it because it could have been my last game as well.

“Roosy (Paul Roos) was in the stands and I had a shut-down role on Dahlhaus. I just tried to go out and play my best game on him. Luckily enough, Roosy saw something to want to keep me around. Today I’m still playing that same role and enjoying it.”

Jetta said his outstanding performance on Adelaide star Eddie Betts in round seven this year was the catalyst to taking his game to the next level. 

“I think it really was one of my better games for the year and that probably earned the trust and confidence from the coaches, which was the main thing and gave them the belief that I could really do that role,” he said.

“I played a few games before the Adelaide game and played a shut-down game that was OK defensively but wasn’t OK offensively. The Adelaide game was more even all around and not only showed the coaches I could play that role but supporters and teammates and other teams as well.

“It was definitely a good game to show my ability to play that role. I enjoyed that day and I wish I played like that every game.”

Jetta said his wife Samantha and daughter Nalani had been pivotal in his fortunes this year.  

I’ve been leaning on everyone and not one person in the football club,” he said.

“Out of the football club, it would be my wife Samantha and my daughter Nalani who have been a great support for me, especially through the last 12 months as it’s been such a rollercoaster ride for them and for myself.

“At the football club I try to use as many people as possible.”  

From a pure football perspective, Jetta said another key to his success in 2014 was finding a role and making it his own.

“I was good at everything but not a master of one thing. That was the thing that was brought up a lot. I couldn’t master one position but I was good enough to play that role for the team for the day,” he said.

“It’s hard trying to find your position when you’re thrown around every week and although not every player looks to be settled in one spot, I felt like I needed to be. It doesn’t help when the team isn’t playing well either.

“Playing that one position now where you’ve got to beat your man one on one suits me a lot as I’m a contested, competitive player and as you’ve seen this year, it’s really shown during games.”