A week is a long time in footy. Three weeks can seem an eternity, as Dane McFarlane can attest to.
The 24-year-old defender is in his second year at Avalon Airport Oval since crossing from Geelong and may have been wondering where his season was headed when he entered the VFL bye weekend having played his last four matches in the Development League.
Three weeks later, he was playing a starring role as a rebounding backman in the VFL side’s rousing 14-point win over the Northern Blues.
“It was a bit of a frustrating time,” he says of his relegation.
“I wasn’t playing my best footy at the start of the year, so I got put to the twos and played four in a row there.
“Then coming back up, it was really pleasing to play some good footy and get some good run and carry.”
McFarlane’s recall had come in the previous round against Richmond, where he performed strongly in a nail-biter to ensure he held his spot against the Blues. But it was on the open expanses of Ikon Park that the man known as “Swan” to his teammates was really able to step his game up a notch, taking full advantage of the extra space to show plenty of daring and deliver plenty of dash out of the backline.
“All the coaches said just back yourself on such a big ground, so it was a little bit easier,” he says of his willingness to take the game on.
“It was such as good day, and the ground’s massive, so that helped a lot. Everyone said as soon as you get it, just take it on, so it’s easy when everyone’s saying that sort of stuff.”
McFarlane’s readmission to the senior side also coincided with the withdrawal through injury of another hard-running rebounding defender in captain Michael Sodomaco, a factor that perhaps helped the returning player to stamp his authority on that role.
But despite the skipper’s imminent return, McFarlane believes there is scope for the two to play parallel roles and deliver a two-pronged attack.
“Hopefully we can feed off each other,” he says. “We’re obviously both similar players, but I’m hoping we can both work off each other and really take the game on.”
Not surprisingly, McFarlane has again been named for the senior side to take on Footscray this weekend and now looks to have staked a strong claim for a more permanent place at the VFL level.
But while he is clearly showing plenty of confidence on game day, he isn’t taking anything for granted at the selection table given the new crop of talent breathing down his neck.
“There are a lot of good players in the twos coming up who want to take your spot, and it all depends on the North players and those coming back from injury, so you’ve got to be wary of that,” he says.
“You can’t slack off at training. You’ve got to be working hard every Tuesday and Thursday and hope that it all pays off.
“I’m just hoping to play as many games in the ones as I can.”
With a milestone 50th game within reach and Werribee’s strengthening finals prospects, McFarlane has plenty of incentive to maximise his time at the top level.
But whatever the rest of the year holds, he can take plenty of comfort in the promise of playing as part of a standalone team operating out of a new state-of-the-art facility in 2018 and the thought of the opportunities that will provide.
“We’re looking forward to that heaps,” he says of the redevelopment. “They’ve spent $12 million on it, so we can’t wait. It’ll be unreal.
“There are a lot of good players in the twos who just can’t make it into the ones at the moment, but with going standalone next year, that will give them their opportunity, so hopefully they can take it.”
McFarlane and the rest of the Werribee side take on Footscray on Saturday at 2pm at Victoria University Whitten Oval.