Archie Perkins celebrates a goal during the R8 match between Essendon and Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval on May 7, 2023. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

ESSENDON young gun Archie Perkins is looking to increase his midfield time as he enters his fourth season at AFL level.

The 21-year-old was a top-10 pick in the 2020 draft, and has been incredibly durable, playing 62 games and quickly becoming a favourite among Bomber fans.

Perkins was already gradually increasing his midfield minutes in the latter half of last season, spending less time as a mid-sized forward and more on the ball, but another pre-season looks set to drive him up another gear.

"Being around the ball more has always been a goal of mine. The ability to play both positions, forward and mid, I think a lot of players are going to be in the same boat," Perkins said.

"The ability to impact on both areas of the ground is a strength of mine and my versatility. I think with the pre-season I've had and the confidence I've got in my game, I think no matter where I play on the ground, I'll be able to have a big impact.

"It can be difficult on game day to change between the positions, but I think four years in, I've got a pretty good handle on how to play both positions. I think being able to move and adjust between the two should come pretty easy to me, so I'm confident in my ability to do that."


All eyes will be on the Bombers' midfield during a match simulation against St Kilda and practice game versus Geelong, with a host of players – including Perkins, Will Setterfield, Jye Caldwell, Ben Hobbs and Elijah Tsatas – keen to stake their claim to play alongside senior figures Zach Merrett and Darcy Parish.

Dylan Shiel is still working his way back from foot surgery, while recruit Jade Gresham is another who could throw his hat into the ring.

"In my eyes, that's only a healthy thing for the team. We can tell at training there's been really healthy competition in there, and it's really lifted the standard of our training sessions, particularly when we go off and do midfield drills," Perkins said.

"For me, just to play to my strengths, I'm pretty confident in my strengths and what I bring to the table when I go into the midfield. I think I've got a bit of size, power and speed in me, so those kind of things lend itself to being good in the midfield.

"[Gresham] just adds another dynamic to our forward line. He's very dangerous around goals and in the forward half. He's obviously proven that as a consistent performer for the Saints over a long period of time. He's readymade to come in and have a big impact."

Jade Gresham looks on during Essendon's official team photo day at The Hangar on February 13, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Perkins was one of three players picked consecutively by Essendon in that first round of the 2020 draft. 

Fellow graduate Zach Reid was unable to add to his eight games in 2023 due to back and hamstring issues, with the last of the trio, Nik Cox, having also battled injury in the same period.

Zach Reid is all smiles at an Essendon training session in January 2024. Picture: Essendon FC

"I'm super pumped about especially 'Reidy'. He's had a horrible run so far, to finally be able to get on the track pretty much every session and doing his thing, he's a super-talented player so very excited to see what he can do this year," Perkins said.

"I think he's going to be a great, almost new addition to the team. He's performed really well so far in the pre-season, and obviously Coxy as well, we know how good he can be out on the field as well. Hopefully he gets a good run on the field as well."