JAKE Spencer says he’s excited for the opportunity to step-up in the absence of 2016 All-Australian ruckman Max Gawn, who is out for the next three months with a hamstring injury.
Spencer, who will play his first AFL match since round 22, 2015, against Fremantle at the MCG on Saturday, acknowledged that his teammate was hard to replace, but he was determined to give his all.
“When Gawny went down it was a bit of panic stations, because they’re big shoes to fill,” he told melbournefc.com.au with a laugh.
“But Gawny has been fantastic. He’s always been a huge support and he hasn’t been at the club much this week, due to his surgery, but he’s always there for me and backing me in. I’ll bounce a few things off him before the match.
“This week has been pretty unusual. There has been a fair bit of noise externally, with big Gawny going down. Internally, all of the support from the boys and the coaches have got me in a good state of mind and I just can't wait for the game.”
The 27-year-old has played 36 matches since making his AFL debut against North Melbourne in round one, 2009.
He has often played second fiddle behind former ruckman Mark Jamar and Gawn, but he’s also had his share of injuries along the way.
Still, Spencer has been a dominant player in the VFL in recent times and has been waiting in the wings for an opportunity.
He almost got it in round one, after he impressed in the recent JLT Community Series with Gawn. His most recent appearance for Melbourne in the final JLT game, included three goals against the West Coast Eagles at Domain Stadium.
Moreover, he said this year’s pre-season series gave him plenty of confidence.
“I think that definitely helped playing in the pre-season and it definitely settled the nerves this week,” he said.
“You know what to expect; I’m just excited and I’ve put myself in a better position than last year.
“Last year, I got injured at the wrong time in the pre-season. I was just chasing an uphill battle, whereas this year I completed the whole pre-season and know exactly where I’m at with my body and the improvements I’ve made over the past six months.”
Hailing from Townsville, Spencer has become somewhat of a cult hero among the Melbourne faithful, due to pre-season form, his bash and crash style and his recent ‘Hair Bear Bunch’ do. But the likeable 27-year-old takes it all in his stride.
“It probably helped playing with Gawny at the start of the year. You walk a bit taller with him in the team. But I’m feeling pretty confident with where I’m at and my ability, so I just can’t wait for Saturday to come around and do my bit for the team,” he said.