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'It's my time to give it a crack', says Bomber

AFL 2017 Training - Essendon 041217
Jayden Laverde leads James Stewart and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti on a training run
I know I haven't shown what my full potential is and I feel it's up to me to do it now
Jayden Laverde

AFTER an injury-affected first three years of his AFL career, Essendon youngster Jayden Laverde is determined to step up next season as he strives for a place in the Bombers' midfield.

The 21-year-old's tilt at earning a regular place in Essendon's senior side suffered a setback last year when he had to undergo ankle surgery after rupturing a ligament during the JLT Community Series.

It kept him out of action for more than four months, and followed a 2016 campaign that was already hit by injury, that time a shoulder reconstruction in the first month of the year.

But he has set his sights on a more productive 2018.

"I know I haven't shown what my full potential is and I feel it's up to me to do it now. Being my fourth year I've had enough time to realise, and to know, what's expected, so it's my time to really give it a crack," Laverde told AFL.com.au.

"It shouldn't have taken this long but it's my time to give it a crack and see how I go,"

"In my mind, I've got a lot more to show."

There have so far been glimpses, but not as many – nor as consistent – as Laverde would have liked.

Last season was particularly frustrating for Laverde. For the first time, he had started a pre-season competition confident in his body, and happy with the preparation he had put in.

But his "freak accident" ankle injury left him out of action for the majority of the year. He returned to some good form at VFL level, including a six-goal half in July, and played in five of Essendon's final six games of the home and away season.

He admits he wasn't at his best, and felt a second or two off: a little reactive, a touch fumbly, a bit off the pace. He was dropped for Essendon's elimination final against the Swans, and his side's season ended there.

"It was annoying getting injured when I did. I felt I put my body in a position where I could play some good AFL footy, and was feeling pretty good about myself but freakish things happen," he said.

"There wasn't much I could do about it, but I tried to be as diligent as I could with my rehab and get back to playing AFL footy later in the season, which I did.

"When I came back, I felt fine and my body felt good. I had a good patch of form to get back into the ones quite quickly, but my touch was a little bit off here and there and hopefully this stint of pre-season will get me there.

Jayden Laverde fought his way back into the AFL side late in the season. Picture: AFL Photos
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"It was obviously pretty tough to take not playing the final, but I'll take some good lessons from that and use that as some resilience and try to build my character off that."

Laverde spent a fair chunk of his off-season working towards a career-best 2018. After a break, he headed to America with a group of teammates, mainly the club's younger brigade, for a training camp in October and November. 

The trip included visits to NBA clubs the Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards, as well as NFL side the Cleveland Browns.

The overseas training block was optional, but Laverde has noticed the difference since returning. "By the time I got back I felt like I was ready to train hard from the start of pre-season," he said.

Laverde, who was selected by the Bombers with pick No.20 at the 2014 NAB AFL Draft, has managed 23 games in three seasons with the Bombers, playing primarily as a half-forward.

But his size – he stands at 191cm and around 82kg – combined with his pace and agility, make him an option for Essendon in the midfield.

It's where he sees his future if he can continue to build on his endurance, and as the Bombers search for some size in their on-ball brigade, Laverde sees an opportunity to make it his next year in what shapes as a big season in his career.

"Because I've had a few setbacks I haven't been able to show myself fully. I think that my best footy is played throughout the midfield, but I'm quite happy playing up forward if I'm in the best 22 playing as a forward," he says.

"Then being able to go in and change a game through the midfield. As my career goes on I want to become a full-time midfielder once that endurance is up to an elite level and I can go all day in there."