LAST Saturday, Travis Colyer played his 43rd game for Essendon in his fifth season with the club. But dig a little deeper and the midfielder reached a mini-milestone, one that meant more to him than most.

It was Colyer's eighth consecutive game for the club, becoming the longest streak of his career. "It's amazing what a few games in a row can do," Colyer told

Colyer would know. Since winning a place in Essendon's team to face Adelaide in round 14, he has played every game and averaged 17 disposals. Last week, in the Bombers' come-from-behind win over West Coast, he gathered 24 touches, his second best career tally.

He ran with the ball and had a big say in Essendon's charge. But things haven't just turned; a gradual process has gotten him here.

"A few friends have said, 'It seems you've cemented a spot'. I don't really see it as that, I just see it as I've brought something to the side and I've actually been able to make an impact," said Colyer, who turns 23 on Sunday.

"When I did get an opportunity, because I knew it was going to happen, I had to make the most of it."

He was made to wait and work for that chance but that didn't concern him.

Colyer's first game of the season came in round four against Fremantle. He didn't expect to come in for it and, having played OK, didn't think he would be dropped the next week. But this time Colyer attacked his VFL stint differently.

He identified a role he could play at AFL level as a midfielder and half-forward, and tried to perfect it at the lower standard, so that when his senior chance came, he'd be ready.

Colyer thought back to a chat with forwards coach Nathan Bassett at the start of the year about what he wanted to be known for: his 'trademark'.

He had jotted down a few points, like improving his work inside contests, talking more to his teammates on the ground and getting involved that way. Sticking to what he is good at, like zipping through with speed and taking the game on. Having a narrower focus would allow him to deliver over and over.

"One thing I really wanted to do this year was to allow my teammates to know what they were going to get from me every week. It is a hard thing. People talk about consistency in football and it can define teams' performances and people's careers," he said.

"In my first couple of years, I didn't even know myself whether I was going to put a good game in or a poor game in, so how were the coaches or the rest of the players meant to know? They didn't know what to expect from me. That was probably an outcome of not really having the confidence. This year I've really accepted my role and what I'm going to do."

That understanding came in his 10-week stint in the VFL from rounds 4-14. He was emergency a few times in between, and regularly a part of the 25-man squad, but couldn't quite break into the senior line-up.

After four or five weeks, Colyer thought he might be ready, but when he was overlooked, he kept going. He made a point of enjoying playing in the VFL, and not worrying as much. "I do analyse things a lot more than what I should," he said.

But he found ways to filter that analysis into the right areas, by watching more vision and working more on his game. More of that meant less fretting. "You can forget when you're playing in the VFL what actually makes you a good player," he said.

Colyer's role hasn't changed too much. He's still a small half-forward and midfielder who brings with him pace, tenacity and some go. But this year, unlike others, he has got a proper run at it, and came into the senior team in good form.

A chat with captain Jobe Watson about a change in mindset helped, and he entered games not stressing about playing well, just playing.

"I'm not necessarily worrying about, 'Am I going to touch the ball? Is it going to happen?'," he said. "I knew I'd done the work, what I could bring to the side. And if I make a mistake, which we all do, then I'll move on from that quickly."

Playing full games has helped. He has averaged more than 80 per cent of game time in the past eight weeks. The days of being a first-choice substitute appear over. Technical changes have made a difference, too. His ball-winning capacity has developed, and he feels more comfortable running at a ground ball and knowing he'll gather it cleanly.

He has worked on his marking to the point where he can turn his body in the air to shield the drop of the ball, and his kicking has improved thanks to advice not generally thrust upon him: slow down. "Having more of a settled, balanced kick is a lot easier," he said.

Having earned his spot, Colyer wants to keep it. At the end of last season he signed a two-year deal to stick with the Bombers to the end of 2015, despite knowing the frustrations of being an AFL player, and coming in and out of the team. He backed himself to overcome that challenge and be a regular member of the Essendon side.

He has played a big part in the Dons' push to the finals in the second half of the year, and should they get there, he will go in believing in what he can provide.

Final crystal ball: Who waits for the Bombers in our predicted elimination final?

"A few development coaches and VFL guys around the club have said they're quite happy for me because they've seen how hard I've been working," he said.

"It's satisfying to know that hard work and playing good footy in the VFL means you'll get an opportunity and you will play AFL football. It's been really pleasing and satisfying that, while it is a team sport, you can get a bit of individual reward."

Twitter: @AFL_CalTwomey