WHEN the dust had settled on Melbourne’s premiership win, Kade Chandler had made a decision.
The small forward was going to remain a Demon.
At the beginning of October, the 21-year-old re-signed with the club, committing to a future in the red and blue.
“There was a lot to consider [when re-signing] but I spoke to a lot of the boys, I spoke to Goody and at the end of the day Melbourne was where I wanted to be,” Chandler told Melbourne Media.
“It’s also an opportunity to have success. That’s why we play footy, to win flags and so the opportunity here is to work with the best coaches, best players and I really do believe we’re going to be a strong team for a long time.”
Chandler, who was drafted in 2019 from South Australia, opened up on the personal aspect of his decision to say, explaining his connection with the club and how the players and staff had become a major part of his growth over the past three years.
“If I went to a different club, I wouldn’t have had the added bonus of the boys, who have basically been my family,” Chandler said.
“Travelling to the club from interstate, they’re all I’ve known for the last three years.
“And as much as I am very family-oriented and in love with farming, I did find myself missing the team camaraderie and training during the off-season and that’s when I knew I’d made the right decision.”
The small forward made his AFL debut in 2019 but wasn’t able to get back into the side in 2020.
This year, Chandler was the named as an emergency on 14 occasions including the preliminary final and grand final. Of those 14 occasions, he was named as the medical substitute for four games and earned a spot in the Demons’ starting 22 for their Round 9 game against Carlton.
Speaking candidly on his unusual year in and out of the side, Chandler discussed how important his experiences as the emergency were for his development this season.
“At first it took me a little while to get used to, but throughout the year it ended up being really beneficial,” he said.
“For me personally, it was the preparation side of things and learning how the professionals go about it because I hadn’t been exposed to AFL too much.
“Just being around the team, spending time with the older players, seeing how they warm up and prepare for games, being in the team meetings.
“I now feel like when it’s my turn to play and be part of the team, I’ll be ready to go because I know what it looks like.”
Once Chandler had put pen to paper back in October, he set himself a goal – to break into Melbourne’s starting 22 and stay there.
But he knew that if he was going to achieve this in 2022, that he needed to work and work hard.
So, when the premiership celebrations came to an end, Chandler made the long trip home to the small town of Charra to begin his off-season efforts.
The journey home, which involves two flights, one to Adelaide and then a second to Ceduna, meant that the Demon was able to spend five weeks in Charra, balancing his football program alongside his farm work.
“I went home to the farm for five weeks and helped out with harvest,” Chandler said.
“I found it pretty difficult, but Mum and Dad were great with helping me prioritise my training over work."
Dedicated to coming back as fit as he’d ever been, the 21-year-old mastered the juggling act of work and football, returning on Monday 6 December ready for his best season yet.
“I’m feeling really fit and I’m super excited for what this year’s got in store."