TOM CUTLER had options this year. He hadn't been able to break into Brisbane's line-up much throughout 2019 – playing only three senior games – but that hadn't dimmed the interest in him.

The out-of-contract wingman was offered a new deal by the Lions, who wanted to keep him, plus a handful of other clubs were keen to pick up the 24-year-old. 

But having decided his days in Queensland were done, Cutler's meeting with Essendon coach John Worsfold and list manager Adrian Dodoro post-season was enough to convince him about where his football future lay.

"Their sell was that I had a really great belief of what I can bring to the table and what I can do," he told AFL.com.au.

They also thought I could take my game up a level here. That was really attractive.

- Tom Cutler

"You have high expectations on yourself as a player and no one will ever reach them from the outside, but they were on the same path and getting close. 

"That makes you get excited and think 'These guys think I can be something really great in this league' so that makes you think 'OK, that's interesting'. That was really magnetic."

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Cutler joined the Bombers in October's Telstra AFL Trade Period, after six years and 66 games with the Lions.

His best season came in 2018, when he played 18 games and established himself in Brisbane's line-up, but he managed just three appearances in the first eight weeks of this year before injury struck.

Tom Cutler in full flight during his impressive 2018 season. Picture: AFL Photos

Cutler returned late in the year and was a key player in the club's NEAFL premiership win, but didn't feature in the Lions' senior side's return to the finals. 

His place outside of the first-choice Lions' line-up wasn't the only reason a move back to Victoria was on his mind.

"My dad's had a chronic illness for a while now since I left school so it's not the sort of illness that kills people but it makes it hard on other people," he said.

"I felt like there was always a question mark throughout my career around 'When's the right time to come back?' and 'Do I have to be back? Is there a responsibility?' 

"My family was really great in telling me to pursue my football. I did think about leaving during my fourth season, but I re-signed for two years and had my best career year in 2018. I was trying to continue that last season but it was always something that was persistent for me." 

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Cutler has moved back into his family home since returning to Melbourne, but the 24-year-old hasn't quite found everything to be the same. 

"They've actually renovated the house [so I haven't got my old room back]," he said, "but it's nice to be home." 

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Cutler felt no angst towards the Lions about missing out on their finals campaign, nor upon leaving the club where he was drafted in 2013. 

He used his time out of the senior side to learn off damaging Lions wingmen Hugh McCluggage and Mitch Robinson – "I look at their years and think I was pushing them and improving myself," he said – and he even caught up with Brisbane coach Chris Fagan at the end of the trade period, with Fagan seeking a catch-up before he moved to the Bombers. 

Despite playing most of his career at the Lions as they languished near the bottom of the ladder, Cutler says there was no animosity watching his teammates prosper.

"I didn't think 'Woe is me', I just thought about how I could improve my game, make myself better and contribute. I didn't think not playing was the end of the world," he said. 

"The team was doing super well so even though I wasn't playing it was a super environment to get better in."

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Cutler has arrived at Essendon ready to nail down a regular position. 

He has trained with the Bombers' midfield group since arriving, and is eyeing a spot on the wing, where his speed, athleticism and run and carry can come to the fore. When Cutler looks ahead, he knows what a good 2020 looks like.

"I know I want to contribute at a higher level than I ever have in the past," he said. 

"Obviously last season didn't go to plan but I retain that confidence and belief that I can contribute at a high level and I have weapons on the field that other players might not have. I'm pretty confident about it, I'm confident about the fit and the feel. I'm happy to be here."

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