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Melksham ready to make mark at Melbourne

Matt Burgan  December 8, 2015 10:22 AM

China Southern Arrivals Lounge: Jake Melksham Meet Jake Melksham in part two of the China Southern Arrivals Lounge series
At the start, I thought it was just a normal dinner … and when we got there, he (Simon Goodwin) spoke about the possibility of coming to the club. He said ‘you need to ask yourself what you want to get out of your footy career? You need to find that passion and reignite yourself again’

AFTER being traded to Melbourne from Essendon in October, Jake Melksham started life in the red and blue a couple of weeks ago when pre-season resumed for those older than the first to four year players.

Not that Melksham is a veteran.

He’s a 24-year-old, with 114 AFL matches to his name, at an average of 19 games per season since he made his debut in round one, 2010 against Carlton at the MCG.

Now, after six seasons at Essendon, Melksham is entering his first year with Melbourne. And his first impressions are of a club with “a really talented list” and that he has joined at a particularly “exciting” time.

Making the break from the Bombers wasn’t easy for Melksham, but once he had made up his mind, he was determined to become a Melbourne player, as he explained.

“The trade period wasn’t so much the hard part – my decision had already been made [to join Melbourne]. The hard part was from the last game until a month [later] when I was overseas and deciding what I wanted to do,” he told Dee TV.  

“I went travelling with a few Essendon mates that made it a little bit harder, but they were really supportive of my decision. It was just that initial stage where you had to decide which club you wanted to play for, what you wanted to get out of your career and the rest of your footy life.

“I chose Melbourne, which I’m really happy about and it’s been a smooth transition so far.”

Still, for the player originally selected at No.10 in the 2009 NAB AFL Draft, Melksham was lured by the fact that he would play under future senior coach Simon Goodwin.

Melksham’s strong connection with Goodwin was the driving force behind his move, given the former Essendon assistant coach had looked after him in the midfield during their time at the Dons.

“He gave me a ring and could see I wasn’t enjoying my footy or reaching the potential that I had. I’d go around [to his place] for dinner often [and one day] he said ‘come around, we’ll have a chat’,” he said.

“At the start, I thought it was just a normal dinner … and when we got there, he spoke about the possibility of coming to the club. He said ‘you need to ask yourself what you want to get out of your footy career? You need to find that passion and reignite yourself again’.

“He said ‘I’m not going to pressure you into anything and it’s not going to [change] our friendship if you do come [to Melbourne] or don’t. It’ll still be the same – there will be no hard feelings, but I just want you to get the best out of yourself’.

“It got the ball rolling and I thought maybe a fresh start would be good for myself, so that’s where it got started.”

In describing Goodwin, Melksham said the first word that came to mind about the Adelaide great was that he was “driven”.

“Everything he does, he commits 100 per cent … he believes in what he’s doing and he’s come from a successful background. He’s played in a few flags at Adelaide and he’s been there and done it, so you trust what he’s saying,” he said.

“He showed a lot of belief and faith in me, ever since I was only 19 or 20, and I came to [Essendon] and he’s mentored me ever since.

“The club’s in very good hands and speaking with the players over the last few weeks, they’re really excited to have him on board with Roosy (Paul Roos). He’s brought a little bit of change to the club as well and I think this transition phase in the next year will be really smooth.”

In addition to his relationship with Goodwin, Melksham spoke highly of manager of development Brendan McCartney, who was at Essendon at 2011, before coaching the Western Bulldogs for three seasons.  

“Macca’s a great coach and he’s a really good communicator and he gets his message across strong sometimes, but at other times, he understands young people,” he said.

“He’s really good at developing young footballers and he just simplifies things. I remember when he was at Essendon, he would just give you a few things to do and if you ticked those boxes in a game – then you’d start to play well.

“He didn’t overcomplicate things and I’m sure the boys are enjoying having him at the club, as he’s another great asset we’ve got.”

Reflecting on his last three seasons at the Bombers, Melksham said it had been an incredibly difficult period to endure, given the controversy surrounding Essendon’s supplement saga.

“At the start, when it all came out [in February 2013], we thought it wouldn’t be going for this long. Over the years, we’ve rallied as a group and been pretty resilient through it all. I think we’ve carried ourselves pretty well, but the longer it’s dragged on, it just became part of your daily life,” he said.

“It’s almost done and I’ve moved clubs, but I didn’t read a paper for three years. Things like that, you push aside to cope with it.

“When I look back over my career, probably in 10 years’ time, when I’m a little bit older and a little bit wiser, I’ll look at it a bit differently. But now it’s something that we dealt with, when we had to, and when it wasn’t a topic of conversation, we were just worrying about our football and our day to day lives.

“It’s coming to an end now, I think, and it’ll be a good day when we can all move on from it.”

The fact that the WADA appeal is still ongoing isn’t playing on Melksham’s mind.

“Not really. It became a way of life almost, dealing with this topic, so you learn how to control the controllables and the uncontrollables are left out of your hands,” he said.

“[Essendon has been] in it with you and the players are in it with you and you’ve got each other to lean on – that’s probably the best thing about it.

“If it was just one or two blokes that were in that position and the rest of the club was fine, then it’d probably play on my mind a fair bit and [be] affecting me a fair bit. The fact that you went to the club every day and you had mates to rely on was really good.”

When he first arrived at Melbourne, Melksham said it did play on his mind “a little bit” in regards to how his new teammates would react to him coming from Essendon.

“I explained to Melbourne that it was a really hard decision because I didn’t really want to leave my teammates. I was pretty close to a fair few of the boys there and with the whole group really,” he said.

“But at the end of the day, speaking to my family and my partner, and also with Melbourne, sometimes you’ve got to do what’s best for you – not so much worry about what other people want or what other people think.

“You’ve got to take that leap of faith and start with a bit of a change. I was thinking ‘how am I going to approach this and how would I go not being at the club and not being with my good mates?’ But in these times, you find out who your real mates are and who aren’t, so there are no grudges there with any of the players.

“I messaged everyone that meant a lot to me and that I had a high respect for and they were all very understandable. The rest is history.”

Now he is part of the Melbourne family, Melksham said he was “looking forward to training at half-back” and making that his position his own in 2016. But he said he was happy to play in the midfield, if required throughout the season.

“I played a few games at half-back towards the end of last year and I really liked it,” he said.

“I played not too bad there. I thought I played some good games and when I spoke to Melbourne, they saw a position there for me, across that half-back line.”

Quite simply, Melksham is looking forward to reigniting his passion for the game at Melbourne.

“When I got drafted, my first couple of years, I loved footy as a kid,” he said.

“Over the last few years I’ve lost a little bit of that passion, so it’s getting that passion back and finding my love for the game again. [It’s also about] playing some consistent, good footy and having a few wins.

“The last year for me and [Essendon] wasn’t as good as we’d liked and we didn’t win too many games, but I want to win some footy and play in finals [at Melbourne]. The club’s definitely heading in that direction, with the talent that we’ve got.”