CHRISTIAN Petracca is one of the game’s most promising young stars.
He was taken with pick No.2 in the 2014 National Draft and over his 85-game career, has developed into one of Melbourne’s most damaging players.
In 2019, Petracca booted a team-high 22 goals to place fifth in the club’s best and fairest award, but his best is still ahead of him.
After an impressive start to the pre-season, stoppage and contest coach Ben Mathews can see him taking his game to another level in 2020.
“Trac’s put a lot of work in over his off-season, so his September, October, early-November time, and that’s really showing,” Mathews told Melbourne Media.
“He went overseas and did some work in the States, and that flowed through to his pre-season.
“His work on his endurance and repeat speed stuff has stood him in good stead in the footy drills – he’s looking really sharp out there.”
Petracca has showed glimpses of his best footy during his first four seasons in the red and blue, but he’s hoping to push up the ground and impact games for longer this year.
“He’s understanding the work rate required and the training required to be a great player,” Mathews said.
“He’s always had the ability, but it’s the ability to endure for a little bit longer which I suppose is the challenge, and he’s worked really hard on that.
“He’s doing some great stuff in the midfield group and we hope he plays a lot of footy there this year.”
At just 24 years of age, Petracca is still learning the game and developing his on-ball craft, which is expected for someone so early in their career.
“That’s completely natural as a young player when you’re finding your feet,” Mathews said.
“Especially given his history after missing his first year (with an ACL injury) and transitioning back into the group over the next few years. He was always going to play a little bit more forward but we’re just happy to have him out there.
“Where he plays will be determined by what’s the best thing for the team but also his strengths.”
At his best, Petracca has all the traits to be a dominant player in the centre of the ground, which will be exciting for supporters to watch in years to come.
“There’s no doubt he’s a dynamic player,” Mathews said.
“He’s more dynamic than a lot of other players who might be great midfielders, but they don’t have his agility, his power, his change of direction and even some of his tricks.
“That’s his weapon, he is pretty amazing in some of the things he can do, but you’ve got to marry that with a high work rate and playing a role for the team.”
While Petracca is known to be one of the biggest pests among his teammates, Mathews says his maturity as a footballer has been notable in recent months.
“I certainly see him speaking up more to the group,” he said.
“He’s getting more confidence in the midfield group to talk, to communicate – there’s no doubt about it.
“And that’s the evolution of a footballer. Very few come straight in and understand when to say something and what to say.
“He’s probably had the confidence in his ability, but not so much to talk, to communicate and help his teammates.
“He’s coming along really well.”