A FOCUS on defence has been central to Jake Melksham's form over the last month as the young Essendon midfielder establishes himself in a new role.

Melksham picked up 24 disposals against Port Adelaide on Sunday, was composed with the ball, and used it cleanly.

He managed all of that while minding Power star Hamish Hartlett, a new trend in Melksham's development as a rounded midfielder as he learns, develops and adds bits and pieces to his game.

Coach James Hird said Melksham had enjoyed a "fantastic" month as he begins to shut down opponents while also setting up the play.

"He's beaten some really good players," Hird said.

"Hartlett had 20 and looked dangerous in that last quarter, but up until then I thought Jake did a really good job on him and attacked.

"The question we had to ask ourselves during that last quarter was 'Do we release Jake?', because he looked like the only one who had legs and was able to run, or do we keep him on his job? We decided to keep him on that job."

It's faith that's being rewarded – for Hird, for midfield coach Simon Goodwin, and for Melksham himself.

He was dropped in round five, and missed Essendon's Anzac Day win over Collingwood. It hurt, but he has played every game since and felt more and more like the midfielder he wants to be.

"I've been working really closely with Simon Goodwin and he's been backing me every week, giving me confidence, and making sure I believe in myself, and believe in what I can do and what I am capable of," Melksham told AFL.com.au.

"You've just got to stick tight and eventually it will pay off, and the hard work's starting to come out in my game."

The wheel turned in round 11 against Carlton, when Melksham had 21 touches, and kicked three goals in a match-winning display. That sense has remained, and he has averaged 21 disposals in the past four weeks – all Essendon wins.

"I definitely needed that game. I set myself for a big one that game and it paid off. I've taken that confidence into every game since then," the 21-year-old said.

"Every time I would go through my tape it felt like I wasn't far off from a good game. It was good for myself to have a little breakout game and go with it."

Melksham was one of several young Bombers, including Ben Howlett, Dyson Heppell and David Zaharakis, to take control of the midfield with skipper Jobe Watson an early casualty against the Power.

The Bombers are set in the top four, and play battling sides Western Bulldogs and Greater Western Sydney in the next two weeks. But Melksham said the lessons of previous seasons are fresh in their minds.

"The last couple of years we've dropped away and we know this year we've got to keep stepping it up each week," he said.

"I think in the last couple of years we've probably started to look ahead when we've been in the top four and think about what's going to happen down the track.

"At the moment we can't afford to do that."

Callum Twomey is a reporter for the AFL website. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_CalTwomey