Brent Macaffer sat down over the summer with a pen and paper and selected his best 22 Collingwood players for the season.
He was not sure he could squeeze himself in. Yet he is in Collingwood's leadership group for the first time this year.
Macaffer was a Collingwood premiership forward who became a tagger in the midfield before doing a knee. He has now been out of the team for 12 months in a period in which the club has recruited Travis Varcoe, Jack Crisp, Levi Greenwood, Jordan De Goey, Adam Treloar, James Aish and Jeremy Howe.
"I tried to see where I fit in because we have picked up a lot of new guys and a lot of them play a similar position to what I play and watching last year I was thinking, 'Jeez these guys are pretty good, how do I fit in here?'" Macaffer said.
"I thought about that with the leadership. What can I do if I am not going to play? How can I be a leader if I am not in the team or I am in and out?
"But then I just thought, 'What can I do to help make this team better?' I thought, 'Let's focus on what I can do to help this team and the rest will take care of itself'.
"It is pointless wondering am I going to get a game? Am I not going to get a game? So I have tried to work on being as fit as I can and I have not missed a session in the pre-season and that's all I can do. If I am in one week and not in the next week so be it. I will know I have done the best I can.
"I will work on being the best leader I can around the boys and I have done that in the summer. We should be playing finals footy every year with this list we have got now. We should be successful for the next five, 10 years."
In an on-field sense Macaffer accepts that the pressure for position and, in particular, the arrival of Crisp and Greenwood, who can play as run-with players when the occasion needs it, means that he will again need to reinvent himself.
"In the last 12 months since I have been out, that run-with role has been fading away. There will be certain games where it can be used and really effective, but you can't just play that role now, you have to play half-forward and hit the scoreboard, half-back if I need to.
"I am going to have to re-invent myself again. I have done it once, so why not again?"
Indeed Macaffer's 12 months since being out have been a process of reinvention. He began doing commentary media work on the VFL for the club site. He got engaged to his girlfriend Tamsin and the pair expect their first baby in three months.
"If you told me or asked anyone close to me two or three years ago that I would be in this position, they would say you have got the wrong guy here," he said.
His teammates didn't think so. Macaffer and Taylor Adams have joined as leaders, Tyson Goldsack and Travis Cloke have gone out.
The vote on the leaders occurred before the women's magazine story of nude photos of the players appeared and so played no role in Cloke dropping out of the group.
"That had nothing to do with it, we voted before that," Macaffer said. "From inside the club, none of that was really spoken about at all. I think Trav put his hand up after the vote when we asked how he felt about going out of it and said he wanted to step away from the title of leader and concentrate on his footy and getting back to his best of a year or two ago."
Michael Gleeson is a senior AFL football writer and Fairfax Media's athletics writer. He also covers tennis, cricket and other sports. He won the AFL Players Association Grant Hattam Trophy for excellence in journalism for the second time in 2014 and was a finalist in the 2014 Quill Awards for best sports feature writer. He was also a finalist in the 2014 Australian Sports Commission awards for his work on ‘Boots for Kids’. He is a winner of the AFL Media Association award for best news reporter and a two-time winner of Cricket Victoria’s cricket writer of the year award. Michael has covered multiple Olympics, Commonwealth Games and world championships and 15 seasons of AFL, He has also written seven books - five sports books and two true crime books.
Morning & Afternoon Newsletter