IT'S NEVER easy going through a break-up only to realise that no one else wants you, but that's exactly what Tom McDonald experienced at Melbourne last year.
McDonald and the Demons agreed to part ways at the end of last season despite the forward still having a year to go on his contract.
The 29-year-old had been in hot demand on the open market two years earlier after booting 53 goals in 2018, and he was optimistic there would still be some interest floating about.
Those hopes were quickly dashed, and McDonald had little option but to continue on with the Dees.
Instead of dwelling on his bad fortune, McDonald vowed to do everything he could to rekindle his AFL career at Melbourne.
His efforts have paid handsome dividends, with McDonald's strong form this season earning him a two-year contract extension.
McDonald will become a premiership player if Melbourne beat the Western Bulldogs in Saturday's Toyota AFL Grand Final, and he was quick to reflect on his journey to get to the big stage.
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"Yeah (I was) looking elsewhere, no one wanted me," said McDonald, who has kicked 31 goals this season.
"To be in that position was disappointing. You think, 'gees could this be it after this year?'
"If I cut my salary 90 per cent I might have got a gig somewhere, But I wouldn't be able to live on that wage at the moment.
"A couple of years before that I would have been welcomed at a lot of other clubs, but doors get closed pretty quick.
"I was lucky that I was still contracted to Melbourne, so I knew I could at least come back and try to prove myself."
McDonald said a frank talk with coach Simon Goodwin during last year's exit interviews helped set the foundations for a strong 2021 campaign.
"I decided when I went for my exit interview that I was going to be really honest about where I was at, not trying to make an excuse or sugar coat it," he said.
"That was the best thing for both of us - for him to see that I was serious about getting back, and to see that he could still work with me."
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The arrival of former Kangaroos spearhead Ben Brown was set to spell the end of McDonald's time as a Demons forward.
Instead, the pair have formed a strong relationship in attack, with their presence playing a crucial role in the team's charge to the Grand Final.
McDonald said he never saw Brown as a threat, revealing he had actually planned to play as a wingman this year.
"North Melbourne essentially pushed him out the door as well, and we thought Melbourne were going to be pretty poor, we didn't think we were going to be at this level," McDonald said.
"And to both be here playing in a Grand Final side, regardless of if we win and lose, I think we are both winning on a personal level there."