A MAJOR positive to emerge from the season-long bans handed to the 12 Essendon-listed players who took part in the Bombers' 2012 supplements program has been the continual development of the club's impressive young players.
The sharp spike in improvement of Orazio Fantasia, the round 17 nominee for the NAB AFL Rising Star award, is a case in point.
Fantasia, in his third season after being selected with pick No.55 in the 2013 draft, set himself for a big year knowing he would get his chance to establish himself as a member of Essendon's best 22.
"With the 12 guys not being here, it was going to be a little easier to get in the side," Fantasia told AFL.com.au.
"But as soon as I saw the verdict come out, it was heads down, bum up and get to work type stuff.
"I wanted to play every game. That was my aim if the boys were here or they weren't here."
Fantasia, who was also nominated for the award in round 23 last season, has taken a significant step to cement himself in Essendon's best line-up when the suspended players are eligible to play next season.
The 20-year-old has kicked 21 goals from 15 games and has averaged 15.7 disposals after moving to half-forward this season.
Fantasia, who spent much of his junior career in South Australia playing in the midfield or in the forward line, has made a smooth transition after he started his career at the Bombers in defence.
Fantasia's breakout performance came against Greater Western Sydney in his 20th AFL game in round 13.
In what Bombers teammate Mathew Stokes described as one of the best halves of football he had seen, Fantasia collected 10 disposals, took six marks, kicked 3.4 and was credited with two score assists.
He followed that with another three majors in Essendon's spirited 19-point loss against Richmond at the MCG on Saturday.
"It instills that confidence that you can compete at that level and perform your role week in, week out," Fantasia said of his game against the Giants.
"That's what I've gone on to do, I've grown with that and I go out there every week thinking I can get the best of my opponent."
Fantasia had no idea he would be eligible for the award this season after his gong last year, until he was told by coach John Worsfold prior to the team meeting on Monday.
The rules stipulate a player must be under the age of 21 at January 1 of that year and they must not have played more than 10 games to the start of the season.
"I didn't really know you could get it twice. I thought last year was my only hope but it was pretty exciting to get that news today," Fantasia said.