EVEN AS a junior suburban footballer, Brandon Ellis knew the importance of post-match recovery.
Every Sunday, Ellis' dad Dale would drop the teenager off at the Brunswick Baths on Dawson Street in Melbourne's north, so he could soak his battered body after playing for the Calder Cannons the day before.
It was a ritual that started when Ellis was in the Cannons' under-16 program. He'd just been introduced to ice baths, and the idea of recovery sessions away from the club.
Ellis, 24, laughs now when remembering how his unspecific approach to pool sessions probably didn't do a great deal for the repair of his body.
But he believes it influenced the meticulous approach he now has to recovery, which might just be why he's played 109 consecutive games to be second to only Zach Tuohy as the competition's current most durable players.
"It's got me to where I am today, doing those little things when I was younger," Ellis told AFL.com.au, on the eve of his 110th-straight game.
"It's energy in for me – for a lot of guys, it could be energy out, thinking, 'I've got to come to the club again' when they just want to get away, but I love doing it.
"For me, it's more mental. If I'm good mentally, my body's going to feel fine."
Many would be surprised at the level of dedication Ellis shows to manage his body between games.
He does extra Pilates and weights sessions outside of the club, and sources his own two-hour massage on his day off.
He always gets moving two days after a game – the danger period when players naturally want to rest after recovery the day before – with a light run or bike session.
And he goes into the club for extra ice baths, having discovered a way to make them bearable.
"You put the towel in the spa and put it around your neck, so you get the hot water running down for 10 minutes," he said.
"And you wear socks. Always wear socks."
It's been a big 14 months for Ellis. In last year's pre-season training camp in Mooloolaba, the hard-at-it Tiger had a personal awakening.
He was the first player to present at the Tigers' now-famous Triple H (hero, hardship and highlight) sessions, where he shared the story of his dad's battle with cancer, how he'd been ashamed to grow up in a housing commission flat, and about the day he was drafted.
It was an emotional time for Ellis, who hates public speaking, as he talked about how Dale was one of the lucky ones who recovered despite a bleak initial diagnosis.
The exercise brought the Tigers closer together on the eve of their premiership season, and one Ellis says keeps delivering today.
"I was being this person I wasn't before," he said.
"I told my story and it felt like a big monkey off my shoulders. People just knew why I was the way I was, because of my past.
"I think it 100 per cent still affects us now. You can just be yourself. That's it.
"That's the best part about coming to the club every day now, you can come in and be yourself, you don't have to be anyone else."
It's all come together for Ellis over the last few years.
Early in his career, Damien Hardwick told the group they wouldn't be picked if they didn't have something to busy themselves outside of football.
In his first year, Ellis simply focused on surviving each session, as most players new to the system do.
But in his second season, he did a real estate and a business course.
In his third year, he founded his company Uncle Jack with close mate Robbie Ball, which has gone from strength to strength.
Their affordable range of watches has grown to a collection of 39 styles that have recently been launched in America.
It's all helped Ellis balance his life away from football, which he struggled to do in the early days after being drafted in 2011.
Last year, Ellis was moved to half-back. Hardwick came up to him after a pre-season time trial and told him the move was happening.
It was there he flourished as a hard-ball winning defender after losing his way somewhat on the wing in 2016, and down back is where he wants to stay.
"I needed change. Change is always good and healthy, and I think 'Dimma' picked it at the right time," he said.
"When I go out there, I just feel free. Everything is just so simple and easy. I just know what I have to do.
"I love the backline now so hopefully I can keep growing there."