BROUGHT TO YOU BYNAB

RYAN Angwin sees a bit of himself in Xavier Duursma.

Although two years apart in age, both were skinny wingmen when they arrived at the Gippsland Power from the small Victorian town of Foster.

Both were immediately recognised at the club for their leadership, both were instilled as Gippsland's captains in their respective top-age seasons, while both would also establish themselves as two of the toughest on-field competitors going around.

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It's perhaps therefore no surprise that both have become quite good friends throughout what has been a challenging year, using the roadblocks that have stood in their way to push each other to new limits.

When the COVID-19 pandemic halted the season in March, Duursma returned to his family home in Foster. To stay in shape during the months to come, he phoned Angwin to see if he was up to the task of testing himself with an AFL fitness program.

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Angwin, determined to do everything he could to follow in Duursma's footsteps and earn his place on an AFL list at this year's NAB AFL Draft, was only too keen to give it a go.

"We've become pretty close over the last couple of years, which has been good," Angwin told AFL.com.au.

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"We did running sessions together during the shutdown, three times a week. Then, after the running sessions were over, we'd have a bit of a kick and work on the fundamentals … kicking, handballing, that sort of stuff.

"Now that he's back home again at the moment, we've started doing more stuff together so that hopefully after the draft I'll be ready to go."

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Aside from being good friends, the comparisons between the two from a footy sense are clear to see. Positionally, they play similar roles on a wing, with the younger Angwin often told to replicate the older Duursma's running patterns at Gippsland.

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But while Angwin hasn't been able to show recruiters his development throughout a cancelled NAB League season, like Duursma did before he was drafted to Port Adelaide with pick No.18 in 2018, he can still point to a body of work that is evidence of his improvement.

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In fact, the work on his body is the evidence of that improvement.

Having weighed just 62kg in March last year, Angwin has put on a further 10kgs over the past 18 months to ensure he has the physique to withstand the type of contested ball that he loves to win.

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It's why some clubs across the competition now hold the belief that Angwin could push himself into second-round contention by the time December 9 rolls around.

"It was definitely one of my key focuses, trying to build a bit of size and get some body composition," Angwin said.

Ryan Angwin in action for Vic Country during an U17 Futures game in 2019. Picture: AFL Photos

"You had to become really self-motivated (throughout the game's shutdown period) and try to get yourself in the mindset that it's another day to get better.

"I was just preparing myself for whenever that day came, whether it was training or a game day. I just wanted to be better than what I was before the shutdown, so I took every day to try and get better."

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With that focus, Angwin set about making every post a winner. Literally.

Having initially aimed to improve the contested side of his game throughout his top-age season, the 183cm Angwin got creative in the knowledge he wouldn't have anyone around to apply physical pressure when he was around the footy. 

So, down he went to the nearby oval where he located the largest immovable objects he could find. They would act as his opponents throughout the gruelling few months of Victoria's strict lockdown.

"Contested football was a key focus of improvement for me this year, which was pretty hard to work on with all of the social distancing rules," Angwin said.

"I just had to improvise. I worked off the goalposts and off the coaches' boxes.

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"I was just pushing off them. I was trying to get my feet set properly so I could explode away from them. I also tried to position myself to where I would need to stand to make first contact with them."

Eventually, Angwin finally got the chance to put his new tricks to the test.

Ryan Angwin is checked during the Vic Country NAB AFL Draft Combine in October. Picture: AFL Photos

In the brief period between Victoria's two lockdowns, the young wingman was handed the opportunity to run out for Leongatha's under-18s against Morwell.

It provided a fleeting and rare moment to savour amid an otherwise forgettable year.

"It was just awesome to be running out with your mates and playing footy again," Angwin said.

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"The atmosphere at the game was insane, there were so many people there. It was going off and it was awesome."

It also provided a taste of what could still be to come, especially if Angwin fulfils his dream and joins his good friend and role model Duursma on an AFL list next season.

"I feel like I've been preparing and developing throughout this whole period," Angwin said.

"I feel I'm prepared either way, whether I go or not, so I'll just see what happens."