Coming to terms with a failed AFL career has been easier for Ryan Neates than some.

In the wake of being de-listed by West Coast at the end of the 2012 season, the 23-year-old was able to accept that his injury-susceptible body would never have allowed him to become a fully-fledged AFL footballer.

It was a stark realisation, but one that has helped the 169cm midfielder blossom back at Claremont this year.

Neates has averaged 25 disposals in playing every game for 2014, with his form in particular during the past two months contributing to the Tigers' charge back up the ladder.

He said being able to back off from training at times this year had translated to getting the most out of himself.

"It all starts with continuity and putting games together," Neates said.

"Particularly my time at the Eagles and even last year, I managed about 40 games over the last four years. That's really made it hard to put consistent performances together.

"I really changed my attitude this year. I've had to manage my body and pull out of a lot of training, but it's obviously paid dividends. I've been able to get out there on Saturdays when it's really mattered."

Four major operations, including surgery for a hernia and dislocated elbow, held him back at AFL level. His only appearance for West Coast came as the substitute against Essendon in round seven, 2012.

"With weights and all the training commitments you've got basically every day in the AFL, I think unfortunately I wouldn't be the first bloke who's body just couldn't really handle it," Neates said.

"I've been doing one main session during the week this season and a little bit of cross training. It's really helped with my body."

Neates was asked to develop his skills as a defensive small forward across three seasons at West Coast.

It was a natural assumption for a footballer who at one stage was the shortest player on an AFL list, but Neates said he felt as though he had played out of position.

His performances for Claremont this year have backed up that judgment. Neates has amassed a career-high 37 disposals twice in the past month running through the midfield.

"When you're that size and on an AFL list, you sort of get a little bit pigeon-holed into being a defensive forward," Neates said.

"I probably viewed myself more as a midfielder and particularly this year with Broady (coach Michael Broadbridge), he's given me a lot more freedom to roll through the midfield and I think it's been really beneficial for my footy."

Claremont have risen to fifth on the back of five wins in their past six matches, but have left the run too late to make finals.

They face premiership challengers Subiaco at Medibank Stadium tomorrow and Neates said they wanted to finish the year well.

"We're still trying to get a lot of pride and respect back. We treat every game as if it's a finals game now," he said.

The West Australian

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