THE ARRIVAL of mature-aged recruit Matt Rosa has been a double-edged sword for Gold Coast survivor Matt Shaw.
On one hand, Rosa's arrival during last year's trade period forced the 24-year-old to fight for the wing spot, something he had not had to do since arriving at the club in 2010 as a 17-year-old zone selection.
However Rosa brought so many positives that Shaw now sees his experienced teammate's presence as one of the best things to have happened in his time at the Suns.
"We never had a winger to learn from when I came into the AFL, so it has been really good to have him, learn from him and see things from a different perspective," Shaw told AFL.com.au.
"Rosa has got some really good experience and he is not afraid of letting all the boys in on that experience."
Shaw played his first game in round four, 2011 as a blond-haired 19-year-old who seemed to fit the Gold Coast image.
He was a Victorian boy from the bayside suburb of Chelsea who surfed, as well as being a hard footballer who could run.
But he had few teammates who could teach him the intricacies of the wing/half-back position he played.
So he just ploughed on, playing at least 15 games in each of his first six seasons without seeming to cement a spot in the competition.
Then Rosa arrived after 168 games and eight finals at West Coast and took Shaw's spot.
Alex Sexton also emerged and Shaw battled away in the NEAFL until a hamstring injury to Rosa gave him his chance in round eight.
He has missed just two games since and played with greater self-awareness than previously.
"I used to be pretty bad at letting things get to me if I made a mistake," Shaw said.
"Now it is more if I make a mistake I want to get the ball back in my hands to make amends."
As he closes in on 100 games, he is one of just 16 players still at the club who were on the original list of 53 in 2011.
Tom Lynch, Steven May, Rory Thompson, David Swallow, Brandon Matera, Dion Prestia, Trent McKenzie and Tom Nicholls lead that list of young pioneers who have matured on the Coast.
"When we came in at VFL [level in 2010] everyone was in the same stage, but now we have got the younger boys so we can start building the culture the way we want it," Shaw said.
"It has taken a massive step up."
And as the youngsters now can look to Shaw, who is contracted until the end of 2017, for guidance, he has a teammate in Rosa who can provide the sort of direction he now realises he missed when he first joined the club.
"Rosa is a really good runner on the track as well, so I will be looking to pair myself up with him more and more and try to challenge him as well," Shaw said.
"He really drags along blokes with him so he has been a great [addition] to this team."
Having played in just 26 wins in 98 games, Shaw has done some hard yards. However he can see a shift in himself and his teammates as the list becomes more experienced and balanced as a result.
"If we can get some good continuity with older players on the track, anything could happen from there," Shaw said.
"Eventually good things will start coming our way I reckon."