TOM McDonald says that his early form in 2015 showed he has what it takes to match it with the best in the competition.
McDonald, who played every game for Melbourne this year, had a blistering start to the year before his form dipped in the middle of the season.
“I started the year well and I don’t really have a reason why [my form dropped off],” he told Dee TV.
“I think it’s what I’ve always expected of myself; that I could be at that level as a football player. It was really good to prove myself that I could be one of the best defenders in the competition.
“Unfortunately I wasn’t able to sustain that for the whole year; I had a couple of bad games and then [my] confidence dropped away a bit and mind games were just playing with me until I got back to basics and went back to playing footy again.”
McDonald said he felt his confidence slide after Melbourne’s loss to Port Adelaide in Alice Springs.
“It wasn’t a bad game but I wasn’t playing at the same level [as previous weeks]. I don’t really have an answer why but I just started playing games with myself in my own head and was worrying about it too much and thinking ‘why am I not going back to playing the way that I was?’ he said.
“I think it just took me [a while] for it to settle down and realise that maybe you can’t be best on ground every week and be one of the best players on the ground; my job doesn’t require that every week.
“It was interesting to go through it and hopefully I’ll be better prepared for it if it happens again and I have a poor game next year, that I can bounce back the next one rather than four or five weeks later.”
A move away from the backline in the second half of the year refreshed McDonald’s mindset and restored his confidence.
“Going up forward [was one thing we tried] and I had a bit of an impact up forward; it wasn’t amazing but it was a good experience,” he said.
“After that, I had a game where I went into the ruck a little bit and that probably got me back into form; I chase the footy and got my hands on it a bit and went back to the basics of finding the footy, tackling, following up and that sort of thing.
“I reckon that helped me so when I went back to playing in the backline after that, I felt a bit more at home.”
McDonald said that while he enjoyed the opportunity to play a different position, he has unfinished business as a defender.
“I don’t know about playing forward full time; I don’t think it really suits me as I’ve played back too long but I think I could play wing quite a bit,” he said.
“[But] I’m only half-way there or a quarter of the way there as a key defender, let alone as a second wingman or a second ruck so it takes a long time to learn it all.”
Putting his early form aside, McDonald said he still has a long way to go to become one of the best.
“With my form at the start of the year, I think I was one of the best key defenders in the league,” he said.
“I wasn’t able to sustain it for the year so it doesn’t really count for as much but I have the ability to be that sort of player consistently.
“It’s just going to take more time, more work and learning more and putting together a great body of work.”