FROM the trade table to a contract extension, it’s been a big seven months for Alex Neal-Bullen.
The 26-year-old’s fate was unclear at the backend of 2020, with Melbourne looking at the potential of sending him elsewhere.
But as the Trade Period concluded, Neal-Bullen remained a Demon, and returned to the club with a hunger to turn things around.
“It definitely is a hard conversation to have for both parties,” Neal-Bullen told Melbourne Media.
“For me, it was just about how I respond to that, and I feel like how I took that information has helped me develop my game and become the player that this team needed.
“On that aspect of it, the footy club handled it very well.
“As soon as all that Trade Period was done, I felt really a part of this team.
“I think, not only does the team success show where we are, but as a whole football organisation, it shows that we’ve come a long way as a footy club and we’re on the right path to get to where we want to get to.”
Neal-Bullen’s maturity through a difficult time, accompanied by his passion for the club, held him in good stead to attack 2021, despite facing the possibility of missing senior selection.
And after 10 rounds, it’s fair to say he’s made the most of his second chance, putting pen to paper and securing his future with the club he loves.
“I understand the industry we’re in, but to be mid-way through the year and have signed a two-year extension on my contract for this year, I think it shows a lot of faith that the footy club has in me,” Neal-Bullen said.
“It’s where I started my footy career and it’s where I want to have success.”
With a 9-1 start to the season, the South Australian’s dream appears closer than ever.
And despite often going unnoticed externally, his role as a small pressure forward has been a big factor in the Dees’ growth this year.
“It helps playing in a great team,” Neal-Bullen said.
“I feel like my form is reflective of the footy club at the moment – where we are.
“It’s easier to play in a great team, if that makes sense.
“So for me, it’s all about consistency – resetting each week.
“Whether it’s a win or a loss, coming back to what makes my game look good and what makes the team game look good, so it’s a pretty simple process at the moment.”
And that process has been echoed by the entire team, leaving the Demons in contention this season.
“I think that’s based on the fact that we’ve come over adversity,” Neal-Bullen said.
“I’m not saying we’re there yet – we’ve still got a lot of growth to go with in this season and beyond.
“But like I touched on before, our ability to reset each week [and] understand that we can’t look in the rear vision mirror.
“We have challenges every weekend and we will until the last game of this season, so [it’s about] our ability to come together after each week, understand our opportunities to get better, but also enjoy the challenges that lie ahead.”