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How a Demon earned a two-hour 'sleep in'

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Bayley Fritsch has had an impressive debut season for the Demons - AFL,Melbourne Demons,Bayley Fritsch
Bayley Fritsch has had an impressive debut season for the Demons

LAST year Bayley Fritsch would set his alarm for 5am each morning and trot off to his job as an apprentice electrician.

On the days the Coldstream local was training with the Casey Demons – at least twice a week – he would often not return home until after 10pm later that night. 

The taxing routine was something Fritsch became accustomed to and it did not appear to hinder his performance, with the spring-heeled youngster booting 42 goals in 19 games for Casey and leaping onto Melbourne's radar as a draft prospect.

The Demons and then VFL coach Justin Plapp saw something special in the skinny-framed forward and selected him with pick No.31 (the pick the club gained in trading Jack Watts to Port Adelaide) in the 2017 NAB AFL Draft. 

However, not even Melbourne could have projected just how well Fritsch would adapt to the full-time AFL environment, with the 21-year-old averaging 16.9 disposals and a goal a game from 15 matches in his first season.

Now with a 7am wake-up, a well-rested Fritsch rocks into the club about 7.30am each morning with a clear mindset and a plan on how he is going to approach each day. 

"I'm probably not taking things for granted and making sure that every day I come to the club I'm doing something to improve whether that be craft work, watching vision, or doing weights in the gym," Fritsch told AFL.com.au. 

"I'm just trying to get the most out of myself so I can maximise my time and be at the club for as long as I can."

After putting together a pre-season that wowed Melbourne's coaching staff, Fritsch, who stands at 188cm and weighs 81kg, made his debut against Geelong in round one and he hasn't looked back. 

Initially starting the season up forward, Fritsch has displayed his versatility and reliability in a number of positions on the ground – pushing onto the wing and even into defence against the Western Bulldogs last weekend with Neville Jetta limited by a glute injury. 

Wherever he plays or whatever situation he finds himself in, Fritsch has shown an ability to leap and grab the ball with one take in the air and not waste the footy when he has it in his possession.

"At the start of last year, all I wanted to do was play one VFL game and then to start of this year and play round one was really exciting," Fritsch said.

"It's been a whirlwind, but I'm loving my time here." 

So why then was the promising youngster, who misses out on being eligible for this year's NAB AFL Rising Star by 26 days, overlooked in two consecutive drafts? 

Fritsch, in his own words, was "a bit skinny" when he trialled with TAC Cup club the Eastern Ranges and considered not up to that standard, while a stress fracture in his back hampered him for 15 months. 

A torn meniscus in his knee derailed his 2016 campaign, before an outstanding 2017 season with Casey, thanks in part to a "decent growth spurt" saw him named the Fothergill-Round medallist as the VFL's most promising player. 

"I didn't really get a run at it until last year and I was lucky enough to play a full year (in the VFL) and here I am now," an understated Fritsch said. 

Fritsch, who recently extended his existing two-year mandatory draftee contract until the end of 2020, will now get the chance to do battle with Cats again, this time at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday night.

"I love pulling the guernsey on every week and I love coming into work each day," Fritsch said. "The little sleep in helps a bit too."

 

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