LEARNING to be comfortable with the uncomfortable has allowed Alex Witherden to flourish in Brisbane, where once the defender thought he had no AFL future.
The 20-year-old will play his 50th game on Saturday, when the Lions could replace Geelong at the top of the ladder by beating them at the Gabba.
With just a game against Richmond to follow before the finals it would continue a remarkable rise for the club that finished 15th last season with just five wins.
Victorian talent Witherden revealed earlier this season that he initially struggled with the move to Brisbane, even enquiring with his management about moving home after being drafted to the club in late 2016.
It never eventuated and Witherden is now among a host of emerging Lions responsible for the club’s revival.
“When you’re a young kid and you move out of home you’re a bit vulnerable,” he said.
“It’s about feeling comfortable when you’re uncomfortable and that’s what I learnt to deal with.
“I absolutely love it and … we’re starting to reap the rewards somewhat of investing in the club.”
A win against the Cats would be a ninth in a row and 10th from 11 games at the Gabba this season.
Players and staff credit the success to playing “fearless” football and Daniel McStay, who will notch game 100 on Saturday, admits the composure shown by the likes of Witherden has been impressive.
“And others like Cam (Rayner) have taken that step and Jarrod (Berry) and Hugh (McCluggage),” he said.
“We’ve always had our superstars (in previous seasons), but we haven’t had those (younger) guys that have taken that next step.”
There are no plans to change that approach as Witherden awaits the club’s first encounters with Geelong – when a sell-out crowd is expected – and fourth-placed Tigers this season.
He said they had learnt plenty from a humbling defeat to Collingwood on Easter Thursday – their previous Gabba sell-out and only home loss this season.
“If you play fearful that’s when you make mistakes,” Witherden said.
“You become timid and your attack on the ball isn’t there.
“It’s about continuing to play that fearless, ruthless type of footy that has held us in good stead for 20 weeks until this point.”
© AAP 2019