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Out-of-favour Dee on the hunt to regain his spot

The torp lives as Hunt unleashes Jayden Hunt takes a leaf out of Malcolm Blight's book with a monster torpedo goal

THE FAMILIAR and exhilarating sight of Jayden Hunt putting on the afterburners – and opening a two-metre gap on his opponent in the blink of an eye – was missing for much of last year.

That is, unless you're a regular watcher of Melbourne's VFL affiliate Casey.

Hunt played 43 consecutive AFL matches from the time he was selected to make his debut against Collingwood in round four of the 2016 season.

The 23-year-old dazzled in that period with his foot speed and no-fear approach to taking on rivals, even when they started right alongside him.

Hunt was a weapon in a Demons line-up that isn't overly blessed with pace and was used off half-back and on the wing, including regularly as a chaos player off the back of the centre square.

Then his cons started to outweigh his pros, in coach Simon Goodwin's and the coaching staff's eyes.

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Hunt's games streak ended when Melbourne dropped him after he gathered a paltry six disposals in round two last season.

Goodwin was cagey at the time in his public explanation and insisted the young gun wasn't far away from his best. 

Hunt played just four more senior games for the year – and none in the Demons' breakthrough finals campaign – compared to 10 state league appearances in a self-confessed "frustrating" season.

A right shoulder injury sustained early in the year, which he went under the knife for post-season, didn't help his cause and either did recurring ankle setbacks.

However, there was more to Hunt's stint in VFL purgatory than that.

"I sat down with the coaches at the end of the year, had a good off-season break and am going with the attitude to fully reset and look forward to this year rather than looking back," he told AFL.com.au.

"Once the off-season started I thought, 'I know exactly what I need to work on' and I think I play my best when I'm confident.

"I'm just looking at all the positives and what I can build on, and hopefully it will hold me in good stead for a good year.

"It's just more consistency throughout the game and being involved and switched on the whole time – and a little bit more composure as well.

"Often, I try to do everything at 100 per cent intensity, where it's not always needed, so it's about just slowing the mind and playing the game as it comes rather than inventing things."

Hunt rejoined Melbourne's main training group about three weeks ago, and managed a significant running block pre-Christmas that has him in fine fettle ahead of what looms as an important JLT Community Series for him.

Regaining his spot in the Dees' best 22 won't be easy, with ex-Sun Kade Kolodjashnij arriving at the club in the NAB AFL Trade Period as another challenger.

Players such as Michael Hibberd, Christian Salem, Jordan Lewis, pre-season standout Bayley Fritsch and even draftee Marty Hore are other teammates in the same mix as Hunt.

"We've had a few really handy players come in and even the younger guys have taken steps up, so it's really awesome in the pre-season because every session is intense," Hunt said.

"There are a lot of guys vying for positions, but we're all working together and I think it's a really good thing for the team, how much competition there is for spots.

"It makes you find that little bit extra edge and you can always learn things from other players to add to your game."

 

Don't expect a completely foreign Hunt when you next spot him on the field.

He knows his speed and boldness are his tickets to Melbourne's AFL side, but he also knows a refined product is necessary for him to make it back.

Hunger is something he shares with his fellow Demons, who are still shattered with the way their otherwise brilliant season ended to eventual premier West Coast in a massive preliminary final loss.

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"We're ready to ruthlessly attack the opposition," Hunt said.

"I guess the fans would have been pretty frustrated with the way we finished and we're exactly the same.

"We're really hungry to take that next step and have a good year, so improvement is a major focus on all of our minds – and we're really building towards something great.

"There's such a good feeling at the club at the moment."