IT TOOK some time for Sam Durdin to hit his straps in 2014. The South Australian entered the season with big expectations, and touted as a likely early pick at the NAB AFL Draft.
A broken thumb in February disrupted his progress, and he was out of action for three months, returning for West Adelaide in a Foxtel Cup fixture.
It was something that played on Durdin's mind during the under-18 championships, where he was used all over the ground but struggled to reach consistent form.
The mobile tall, who can play in the ruck and as a key forward but is best suited to defence, resumed for West Adelaide after the carnival and began to play with more confidence.
He finished the season in better form by winning the best-afield medal for West Adelaide in its under-18 Grand Final victory, having 48 hit-outs and taking nine marks.
Durdin's versatility is certainly a strength. Being able to play at both ends is a skill, and even more so when he can switch readily during games.
When his confidence is up, Durdin is hard to stop. At 197cm, he can fly for marks and grab them in contested situations, and then run with the ball and kick it long.
Durdin's mobility has long been a part of his game: at times he does things that aren't easy for a guy his size, like pick the ball up at his ankles, turn and create space.
Recruiters will need to work out how much notice they take of Durdin's 2014 campaign, which started slowly because of the thumb injury and kept on an only slightly upward curve.
Despite an improved end to the season, Durdin probably had a better season last year as a bottom-aged player, so clubs will ask about that.
While he has shown his flexibility, Durdin's best footy has probably come as a roaming, run-around-the-ground ruckman. At his height he won't play that role at the next level.
Durdin carries similar attributes to Port Adelaide's Justin Westhoff in his athletic, roaming and marking game. Westhoff's capacity to push up the ground and make an impact all over is something Durdin has the traits to be able to replicate.
Durdin sits somewhere between the pick five and 15 mark. His testing at last month's combine was impressive for a tall – running 3.01 for the 20-metre sprint and completing a 13.10 beep test..
It's probably best to focus not on what Durdin did this year, but what he can do when up and going. It's hard to find players who can be used in all areas of the ground, take contested marks and run well.