Brent Stanton has credited dual Adelaide premiership star Simon Goodwin for inspiring his stunning midfield form in Essendon's resurgence this season.
Stanton looms as a potent part of the Bombers midfield which looks poised to continue Melbourne's nightmare season at the MCG tomorrow night.
But he admitted the infamous booing he copped last year from his club's own supporters had led to self-doubt, even though those fans were unaware he was playing through the pain of a cracked shoulder blade suffered in a round-eight win over West Coast.
A shy 17-year-old when he was drafted to Essendon with pick No.13 in 2003, he has never shirked hurdles to improvement. So he fronted coach James Hird and his assistant Goodwin, who played 275 games for the Crows, to see why he had created such discord among those who should have been cheering, not jeering.
"I just asked if I was still doing what I needed to do to help the side," Stanton said.
"It did put a few doubts in my mind but they kept on backing me up and saying, 'You're doing what we need you to do'. The support Simon provided and the confidence he gave me to keep going out there and playing the way I was playing was the biggest confidence he could have given me.
"James was fantastic in that area as well as head coach and I tried to suck as much information out of him as possible as he was a great of the game when he played.
"Supporters have their opinions and they have their right. But if your coaches and your teammates are happy with what you're doing, that's the most important thing to me.
"If I kept playing the role and kept doing what I had to do to put the side in the best position to win games of footy, that's what mattered to me."
Stanton's 29 possessions a game this season are, on average, seven more than his career mark in the previous eight seasons. His improved tackling and stoppage work is a reflection of the improved defensive steel demanded of all players under Hird.
But his running power, which has been built simply on a childhood love of pounding the pavement, remains a bold weapon. Although he had only gained about 1kg in weight to 84.5kg, gruelling leg-building work in the gym had given him great confidence to grind opponents down as games progressed.
The 26-year-old regularly runs about 14 or 15km a game.
"I've always enjoyed running," he said. "Some guys may find it a little bit stressful to be able to run 300s and 400s over the pre-season, but I sort of enjoy it and like the challenge of trying to push your body to the limit.
"You're out there to try and beat your opponent and that's probably what you think about for the whole pre-season how fit and strong you can get to be able to match it with some of the best players in the comp.
"It seems funny, but the weights you do and the training you do means you're confident going into the game knowing you can work as hard as you possibly can to get the most out of yourself.
"Whether that's in tackling or running until the end of the game, you know you're going to be able to mix it with the best sides for the whole 120 minutes. That's the team we're trying to build at Essendon."
Stanton plays golf off a handicap of just two despite playing only once a month during the season. He hopes to pursue the sport more seriously when his football career ends. But he isn't expecting that time to come soon and is optimistic Essendon are on the verge of something big in an open year.
"Obviously, we're starting to build a pretty good side and the boys are really up for the challenge in changing the way we want to play," he said.
"We have no doubt that we still have a lot of improvement in us and we're still not playing the football we know we can and want to play, but all the players are playing their role each week. If we can get the job done that way, it's a promising sign.
"I have no doubt the boys are starting to gain momentum and a lot of confidence in the way we're building. It's an exciting club to be involved in."It did put a few doubts in my mind ." *Brent Stanton * on being booed by Bomber fans
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