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Farren's ray of light

Farren Ray continues to fight hard for his place as a Saint - ${keywords}
Farren Ray continues to fight hard for his place as a Saint
These days, the way the AFL is, if you're not a superstar and you're not a young bloke and you're sort of in between, you're a bit of a commodity at times
HALFWAY through last season, St Kilda midfielder Farren Ray knew he had a decision to make.

He'd played five of the first 10 games after failing to impress as the substitute in round one against Port Adelaide.

With Scott Watters at the helm, Ray had been given a new brief by the rookie coach in what was his ninth AFL season.

He was to become more aggressive, take on the game more and be less conservative.

After being demoted to the VFL while he worked on these areas, Ray acknowledged he could have done one of two things; he could have "cracked it" over the lack of opportunities, or accepted the challenge and worked on his deficiencies.

After a period of wallowing in annoyance, he chose the latter.

"The first couple of weeks, I was pretty frustrated I have to admit," Ray told

"But then I thought, why this is happening? Let's do something about it.

"One thing I do pride myself on is resilience and yeah, some people in that position probably would have had the right to crack it.

"I thought, you know what? There's a reason this is happening. I want to develop my game. What doesn't he like about me, I'm going to work on that.

"That's what careers are forged on. You get challenged, you have to respond."

In round nine last year, Ray played his 150th AFL game in the Saints' win over the Sydney Swans.

It was reaching this milestone, and his personal acknowledgment of how hard it was to get there, that helped him realise he wanted to fight for his career.

He played more seniors in the second half of the season, after making the necessary adjustments to his game, and then went to Bali for a holiday after the Saints' final match.

While he was there, and despite the fact he had one year to run on his contract, he was hotly spoken about in the trade period, with Melbourne a keen suitor.

The speculation, while some 4400km away from where he was relaxing on a beach, wasn't a new thing for Ray to encounter.

"My contract is spoken about every year. I just get used to that these days. My name seems to bob up in trade week every year," he said.

"I do think there's always sides out there that are looking for running wingman type players.

"These days, the way the AFL is, if you're not a superstar and you're not a young bloke and you're sort of in between, you're a bit of a commodity at times."

Ray crossed to St Kilda at the end of 2008 in the bid for a fresh start after feeling like he'd stagnated at the Western Bulldogs.

The West Australian says there have always been enquiries about him from the Perth-based clubs but he's been happily settled in Melbourne for a few years now.

It wasn't always like that.

Ray took time to find his feet at the Bulldogs after being drafted with selection No.4 overall in the 2003 NAB AFL Draft.

He finished school that year and took off for schoolies' week in Dunsborough the very day then-Bulldogs recruiter Scott Clayton called to tell him he'd been drafted.

His end-of-school break finished on a Friday. By Monday, he was living in Melbourne.

"I didn't know what was in store. I didn't even know what being drafted meant," he said.

"I remembering being at the airport leaving … let's just say it wasn't great. That was the hardest thing I've ever done."

When Ray reflects on how challenging it was for him to shift his life across the country, he says it's no wonder it took him a while to "get going" at the Bulldogs.

Still, he managed 75 games there before he decided to leave Whitten Oval.

When he finishes his career, which he hopes isn't anytime soon - his manager is in preliminary talks about an extension beyond this season - he's pretty sure he'll return to Perth "for at least a few years".

His brother now has four children, the first of which was born just after he was drafted, so he wants time to be near them and his parents.

But in the meantime, Ray is a keen Saint – and wants to keep evolving into the type of player his coach wants him to be.

"I know there's been discussions from St Kilda to my manager so that's promising but in terms of the contract I think I'll let my footy do the talking," he said.

"I'd love to stay at the Saints for as long as I can. Moving to St Kilda was the best move I've ever made.

"Last year could have gone two ways and hopefully it's gone the right way."

Jennifer Phelan is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow her on Twitter @AFL_JenPhelan.
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs