MELBOURNE'S Jack Watts felt a sense of vindication in the way he performed in the Demons' 30-point win over St Kilda on Saturday, admitting he was stung heavily after being overlooked for selection in the JLT Community Series.
Watts was forced to win his place back in the Demons' round one side after not being selected for the first two pre-season games, with coach Simon Goodwin telling him his pre-season training standards were not up to scratch.
The skillful forward collected 12 disposals, four inside 50s and kicked a goal, also pinch-hitting in the ruck to relieve Gawn in his side's commanding win over the Saints.
"It was pretty tough, personally. I was really proud of how I responded and how I acted through that period and now I get to reap the rewards playing with such a good team," Watts told AFL.com.au.
"I felt a bit of pressure coming in.
"But I knew I'd done the work. I knew I was a good enough player and I was really confident in myself."
Watts said the coaching staff's criticism centered on his intensity, or lack thereof, at training, his want and desire to compete in the running tests and doing the extras expected of a player of his talent.
Goodwin and player/coach performance manager Brendan McCartney drove Watts to turn things around.
They worked with him individually at training, sometimes after sessions, on his ability to win contested footy under pressure at ground level and implored him to fly for the footy, bringing the 'specky bags' out to help him practice where to position his body in marking contests.
Watts, who booted 38 goals in the best year of his career in 2016, had not realised he had dropped off in those areas until the timely reminder from Goodwin.
"The last four, five, six weeks I've really knuckled down on that and they've really loved what I've been doing on the track," Watts said.
"You don't really see it (slipping in training standards) yourself and when you get hit up about it you look back and realise, 'Yep, I can certainly lift in those areas.'
“That's what I did. Head down, bum up for a while."
Goodwin was pleased with how Watts responded against the Saints but urged him to continue to make an impact in contests.
"There were a couple of things I loved about Jack today," Goodwin said.
"Aerially, he jumped at the footy and when he does that he creates a contest for us.
"He's still got a bit of work to do in a range of areas, but he's made some inroads over the last month and if he keeps jumping at the ball like that I'll be pretty happy."
With Melbourne's rise coming fast, Watts realises he can't rest on his laurels if he wants to be a permanent member of Goodwin's side.
"I've got to keep it going now because this team's going places and I want to be a part of it," he said.
"In my time here, we're the most prepared for a season that we've ever been.
"Every situation we know what to go back to play really good footy and that's a pretty powerful thing when you have that confidence in each other and in the gameplan."