WORDS of wisdom from Brownlow medallist Jimmy Bartel are helping Launceston's Jackson Thurlow make the most of his fledgling AFL career.
The 20-year-old is hunting his sixth appearance in the big time with Geelong, but said a timely address from his star teammate had changed his outlook on his game.
Bartel was speaking with the club's first-to-third year players about being in the AFL system, and one sentence struck a chord.
``He said `don't count your games, make your games count','' Thurlow told The Examiner yesterday.
``I've only played the five AFL games, and hearing that opened it up to me that I will have to make it count when I do get another opportunity and not to waste it.
``A few things just clicked for me after Jimmy said that, just about the way I approach my footy.
``I'm now going into games with a different mindset, as I was getting so worked up that I had to play well, and do, this, this and this to get into the AFL team, which is not the way you really need to be thinking.
``I was playing the game over in my head before I'd even ran out, which was stressful, but I've started seeing some improvements in my game since I've stopped stressing as much.
``The coaches could see I was putting that pressure on myself, and told me to just go out and play on instinct and that's what I'm doing now.''
The lack of stress has also seen Thurlow enjoy the game once again.
Joining the Cats from Launceston with pick 16 in the 2012 national draft, he has spent the vast majority of this season playing off half-back and on the wing with its VFL side, making just the one senior appearance in the round 6 loss to Port Adelaide, where he had 10 disposals.
``In the VFL, I have been trying to work on a few little things which have been stopping me from getting into the AFL team, working on being stronger in the contest and winning those crucial one-on-ones,'' he said.
``I've been playing good VFL footy, which is all I can really do at the moment and push myself closer to the AFL.
``The vibe is that I am really close, and I've been the 26th man in the 25-man squad for four to five weeks, which is positive, but it is such a hard team to break in to.
``But that's the best way to be, as you have to really compete for that spot.''
Thurlow's season was initially delayed by hip surgery, but he believes that could have been a ``blessing in disguise'' considering how fresh he is feeling.
``Where I went wrong early in the year was there was so many things that I wanted to achieve, when there is only one thing - to get into the AFL team.
``If I can break in, hopefully I can just relish the opportunity, play some good footy and not get kicked out.''