ADELAIDE midfielder Sam Berry has always been a natural hunter when it comes to pressuring his opponents, boasting an instinct to chase and tackle if he can't win the ball. 

It's a trait that has served him well in a breakout second season that has seen him become the AFL leader for average tackles, laying 9.3 a game from his 15 senior appearances. 

Berry has also been the AFL's No.1 player for forward-half pressure in a season that has seen the 20-year-old grasp his opportunity in the midfield and grow in confidence as a key stoppage player. 

"If I can't win the ball, then that mentality to defend and tackle and chase is very natural for me and it's just an instinct thing," Berry told this week.

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Sam Berry goes bang with two in a minute to give his side some much-needed momentum heading into the second half

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"I've probably always done it and not really thought about it too much, so that side isn't something I've had to work on too much. 

"I've got a lot stronger though, as you do going through an AFL system, so the gym side of things, and the technique we train, has helped.  

"To come out then and do it on game day for four quarters, a lot of that is the endurance side of things from pre-season, but then also maintaining that mentality."

Sam Berry in action during the R19 clash between Adelaide and Sydney on July 23, 2022. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

Berry has laid double-figure tackles in five games this season, with a career-best of 17 against Collingwood three weeks ago. 

Leading the League for average tackles puts him in the company of players like Hugh Greenwood, who led the AFL for average tackles in 2021 (8.6) and the shortened games of 2020 (6.9), Jack Steele (8.2 in 2019) and Devon Smith (8.5 in 2018). 

Former Geelong and West Coast midfielder Scott Selwood was the most recent player to finish a season with a higher tackling average than Berry currently has when he laid 10.7 tackles a game across 14 matches in 2017. 

Teammate Rory Laird has the edge for overall tackles this season, laying an AFL-high 142 from his 17 games compared to Berry's 139 from 15. 

Berry said the pair had worked closely this season and there was no competitiveness yet between the two, with St Kilda's Brad Crouch (131), Gold Coast's Matt Rowell (131) and Sydney's Callum Mills (123) trailing. 

"To be up there with him in that area is something I'm very proud of," Berry said.   

"This year I've done a lot of work with Lairdy, during main training and during the week reviewing games and going into games. 

"We talk a lot about the structure and he helps a lot in that area, and prior to the injury I did a lot with Sloaney (captain Rory Sloane) too."

Sam Berry celebrates a goal with Ben Keays during the R11 clash between Adelaide and Geelong at GMHBA Stadium on May 28, 2022. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

While Berry enjoys the defensive side of the game, he is taking more enjoyment out of the progression he is making in other areas. 

After stepping into the midfield this season after playing a forward role in his debut year, he ranks No.3 at Adelaide for centre clearances (1.5), No.4 for overall clearances (4.2) and No.4 for contested possessions (9.3). 

Improving his kicking, midfield running patterns, and finding more of the ball have been three key focuses for Berry, with the tough youngster progressing well in all. 

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"I've definitely improved a lot and playing regularly this year has helped those things go to another level," he said. 

"I'm rapt to be getting more minutes and playing AFL football each week. Now it's about finding that consistency within games. 

"I've been very lucky and I'm really enjoying it, but there's still another level I want to get to."