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Stretch exceeds expectations first-up

Georgina Lewis and Matt Burgan  October 6, 2015 4:42 PM

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 19: Billy Stretch of the Demons in action during the 2015 AFL round 16 match between the Melbourne Demons and the Brisbane Lions at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia on July 19, 2015. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 19: Billy Stretch of the Demons in action during the 2015 AFL round 16 match between the Melbourne Demons and the Brisbane Lions at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia on July 19, 2015. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)

I came into the year thinking that I wanted to have a good pre-season and earn respect through my actions from the players and coaches. I didn’t think I’d play AFL as early as I did so that was a bonus

BILLY Stretch says his debut season “exceeded” his expectations, after notching up 11 games for Melbourne this year.

Stretch, who made his career debut against Sydney at the MCG in round six, saidhe was surprised to get called up for duty so early in the season.

“I came into the year thinking that I wanted to have a good pre-season and earn respect through my actions from the players and coaches. I didn’t think I’d play AFL as early as I did so that was a bonus,” he told Dee TV.

“From playing my role in the VFL, I kept trying to chip away and work on areas of my game and I got rewarded which was pretty special.

“When you get a game, you want to hold your spot and the expectations continue to rise. It’s been an up and down year; I’ve been in and out of the team a little but I’ll build on that and come back bigger and stronger next year.”

While it would have been easy for Stretch, as the son of former Melbourne player Steven, to feel the weight of expectation in his debut season, he said that his transition to senior football had been “seamless”.

“It’s been a pretty smooth transition and I haven’t felt too much pressure at all to be honest. You can only control so much and that’s all that I’ve focused on; building my own game and earning the respect of the club,” he said.

One person Stretch has been happy to share his journey with is close friend and teammate, Alex Neal-Bullen, who also played 11 games this year in his first season for Melbourne.

“We sometimes sit back and reflect on the year: ending up at the same club, living together and now playing the same amount of games. It’s quite funny,” he said.

“It’s awesome having someone there though to go on the ride with. It’s been a great journey and hopefully this is only the start of it and we can have a long career together.”