Midfielder Alex Grima has been confronted with harsh truths in his first season at South Fremantle.
Now he is conquering them.
The former Hawthorn rookie arrived in Perth from SANFL club Glenelg with a considerable reputation and an expectation that he would help cover for the retirement of some senior Bulldogs.
But he found himself well short of the fitness needed to spread and carry the ball on WA's bigger grounds, and papered over that deficiency by booting 10 goals in his first four games.
Then the drought set in.
The 22-year-old kicked only one major in his next five appearances. He couldn't find the ball and soon found himself in the reserves.
"I struggled early to fit in and just adjust to the different style of footy to the SANFL," Grima admitted.
"It's heaps different. Playing at Glenelg the grounds are half the size and (there's) a lot stronger bodies and it's a lot more physical.
"But over here the grounds are massive. Now that I'm a bit fitter I'm starting to work the spaces a bit more. You have to cover so much more ground over here.
"You can't take it too easy or you get caught out of position where as in the SANFL you probably don't have to work as hard and you're still in the play."
The younger brother of North Melbourne defender Nathan, Grima has learned his lesson.
He set about building a tank to keep up with rival midfielders and the results are showing.
A fortnight ago Grima inspired a second-half comeback that took the Bulldogs to the brink of a shock win over West Perth, kicking two outstanding long-range running goals and amassing 26 disposals in a quality performance.
South Fremantle lost the thriller by three points but Grima had the shot of confidence he needed.
He backed up with a season-high 28 possessions against Subiaco last Saturday to help guide the club to just its fourth win of the year.
"It's hard to use your skills when you're only getting 10 touches a game like I was earlier in the year," Grima said. "The more I can get my hands on the ball, the better off the team will be."
Grima made the move west after receiving a call "out of the blue" from former South Fremantle football manager Brent Dawkins.
"I didn't have anything holding me back in Adelaide, so I thought I'd come over and have a crack and if it didn't work out they'd probably have me back," Grima said.
Importantly for a club firmly in a development phase, Grima is staying, seeing potential despite a battle to avoid the wooden spoon.
"I'm probably staying here for a couple more years now. I'm happy I've made the move, no regrets, which is the main thing," he said."There's been five or six games where we've lost by one or two goals. Looking around the average age here is probably only 20, 21, so if we can keep this list together for a few years I think we'll be a good side."
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