Wellingham yearns again of September
Wellingham yearns again of September

Sharrod Wellingham isn't used to watching much football in September.

And having missed out on finals last year for the first time since his debut season in 2008, the West Coast utility player says it's not something he's keen to do again.

"It just doesn't really sit too well," he said.

"I watched the grand final but I tried to steer away from watching too much footy because you do get a little bit frustrated.

"September is amazing and to not be involved in it, you kind of feel like an outsider in the football world. You're forgotten … but that's the way it works."

Wellingham was drafted by Collingwood just as the club was on the cusp of one of its most successful eras in decades.

In his five seasons at the Magpies, the 25-year-old played in four preliminary finals and three grand finals, achieving the ultimate success against St Kilda in the 2010 grand final replay.

A desire to be closer to family and friends in WA resulted in his trade to the Eagles last season. He arrived at a club which had played deep into finals in successive years.

But instead of contributing to another September run, ankle injuries restricted Wellingham to 10 games, meaning he could only watch as the Eagles crashed to 13th.

The dismal season led to big changes, with club legend John Worsfold resigning as senior coach and former North Melbourne captain and Hawthorn assistant coach Adam Simpson stepping into the role.

Wellingham said after a rocky first year the coming season represented a new beginning for him and the club.

"After my first game last year I really felt a part of the team finally and I'm as much a part of the team as anyone else now," he said.

"There was a fresh feeling walking into the club on day one of the pre-season and just having a fresh start.

"The appointment of Simmo probably made that a bit easier. The whole club felt rejuvenated and put that year behind us."

Wellingham's output in 2013 was far below what the Eagles expected when they traded national draft pick No.17 to Collingwood for him, but what Wellingham showed in his 10 games was all class.

Running through the midfield and across half-forward, he averaged 19 disposals and kicked eight goals, with his consistently effective use of the ball standing out in an on-ball brigade which had been crippled by injury.

The challenge for him this season isn't so much about improving his game, it's making sure he's on the park enough to play it.

Sore shins meant Wellingham's training load was eased earlier this summer but he has returned to full training.

One of the key messages Simpson has brought to the Eagles is that players must be able to adapt to new roles.

When quizzed about which position he's likely to play, Well- ingham said after last year he really didn't care.

"I think my preferred position, and I've said it many times, is just being out on the ground," he said.

"If I'm playing footy I'm happy.

"Simmo just wants me to make sure that I'm playing all year.

"He sees me as being very diverse and being able to play wherever he needs me, I suppose that's the general gist of what I got from him. I'm looking forward to it."

Simpson's arrival dominated the news late last year, enabling Eagles recruits Xavier Ellis and Elliot Yeo to slip largely under the radar.

Wellingham believed they were likely to go straight into the best 22, given their pre-season form, along with one of the club's draftees.

"Xav has shown he's skilful, he's smart and he's experienced, so he's going to be right in there from round one, and Yeo has the skills to be in the side," he said.

"For the young guys, they've all shown a bit. Dom (Sheed) is looking really good. He has fitted in really well already.

"He's been compared to Simon Black coming through and you can definitely see that with the way he moves. He's pretty silky."

With new recruits on and off the field, the Eagles are facing one of the most significant turning points in the club's history.

For Wellingham, it's the most excited he's been since arriving at the club. And if it means he never has to watch another game in September, all the better.

The West Australian

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