ALONG with a milestone comes an opportunity for reflection; at least that’s true in the case of Jake Melksham.
The 30-year-old is set to play his 200th AFL game on Saturday, and his 86th in the red and blue.
But as his recollections show, the road hasn’t always been easy.
“My career’s been full of a fair bit of adversity, to be honest,” he told Narrm Media.
“A lot came easy to me before I got drafted, and then since getting drafted is when all the hard work started.
“I had to work fairly hard to get to where I am now.
Melksham left Essendon at the end of 2015, and after a year on the sidelines, got to work with the Demons in 2017.
One season later came some of those ‘great moments’ he referred to.
In just over 12 months, Melksham had become a pivotal player in the Dees’ line-up, and a major factor in their push for September.
That season, his side broke a 12-year finals drought, with the man himself standing up on the biggest of stages, booting arguably the most important goal of his career against the Hawks in a thrilling Semi-Final victory.
“I actually didn’t come to Melbourne for finals and flags and stuff like that,” he said.
“It wasn’t in the front of my mind at the time.
“The club was struggling – or hadn’t had much success – and I just needed a change and a fresh start.
“At the time I certainly wasn’t coming here to challenge for a Grand Final or a premiership, that’s just where the club was at.
“To see the development of the club and the growth in everybody in the last seven years has been enormous.”
And Melksham has been an integral part of that.
“I think times where my leadership was most prevalent in the club was a few years ago when we weren’t going so well,” he said.
“On top of that you’ve got to perform.
“But now, the way that the club’s run and the leadership that we have, players like myself who aren’t in the leadership group, I think complement those guys that are in there.
“Whenever we’re need to take action or have a little bit more responsibility amongst the group then we’re there to help.
“We’ve got strong leaders right throughout the club.”
While Melksham didn’t receive a premiership medallion in the Demons’ historic 2021 premiership, the role he played in getting the club there should never be underestimated.
And seeing some of his best mates achieve the ultimate is something he is incredibly proud of.
“When I got here I don’t even think Max (Gawn) was in the leadership group,” he said.
“Then a few years later he became our captain, and the captain he was at the start compared to the captain he is now is actually completely different, I feel.
“Even the growth in Goody (Simon Goodwin), the coaches.
“We’ve been able to stick together and grow together.
“It’s been awesome.”