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Lion loves the game again

Brayden May, AFL Players  June 28, 2017 5:08 PM

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Midway through 2015, Ryan Bastinac fell out of love with the game.

Omitted to the VFL side on two separate occasions, the North Melbourne midfielder knew he needed a change of clubs or his career would fall by the wayside.

Now set to play his 150th AFL match, the Lions’ midfielder’s love for the game has come a long way in the two years since he was dropped on 114 matches.

“When I got dropped at North for the first time, I wasn’t enjoying my footy at all, I wasn’t happy playing in the AFL side either,” Bastinac told Aflplayers.com.au.

“In my last year at North, I thought a lot about what it would be like to have a fresh start at a new club.

“I didn’t like being in Melbourne and when the year finished, I thought about what it would be like to move on.”

Sure enough, the former Dandenong Stingray sought a trade north and found a new home at Brisbane following a three-way deal that also saw James Aish head to Collingwood.

His 2016 season culminated in seventh placing in the Lions’ best and fairest award following a year where he played every game.

Now in his second season with the Lions, Bastinac has re-discovered his love for the game despite a difficult start to 2017.

“At the start of the year things weren’t the greatest because I got dropped a few times but I’ve still been real happy,” Bastinac explained.

“I guess the main thing was to get back to being happy and getting back to loving the game again.

“Even when I was dropped up here, I was still enjoying my footy even though it was at a lower level.”

After making the move to Brisbane, Bastinac said the presence of an AFL legend has made the change all the more easier and the 26-year-old continues to be mentored by him today.

“Simon Black was my idol growing up so when I heard he was part of the coaching staff I thought it was awesome,” Bastinac said.

“I still have dealings with him now and I’ve had a lot of good discussions with him. He has always been honest with me — if I’m not going that well he will tell me.

“We’re very similar in the way we move, we’re not quick so he gave me a lot of tips on how to get around that.”

Black has now departed the club to focus on his academy, with Bastinac working closely with Chris Fagan, who is in his maiden season as Lions coach.

Bastinac can’t speak highly enough of the Brisbane senior coach and praised his honest approach especially when Bastinac was spending time in the NEAFL recently.

Having now worked with Fagan for more than half of the year, Bastinac said there’s one key factor about him that appeals to him most.

“It’s his open-door policy. You see guys in his office every day just having a chat with him,” Bastinac explained.

“It’s just a real open feel at the club, it’s all the coaches in general.”

While reflecting on his career so far, Bastinac believes he is lucky to be in the position he finds himself in.

A kid from the Melbourne suburbs, to a typical North Melbourne hard-working midfielder, and now playing and living 1,600km north, Bastinac’s journey shouldn’t be underestimated.

“It has flown by. I guess it is a pretty good achievement to have played 150 AFL games, not many people get to do it,” he said.

“To get to the milestone at a young age is cool and something I’ll remember. I honestly didn’t think I would reach that when I was drafted.”

But post this weekend’s milestone, the reliable midfielder has his sights firmly set on the future.

“In the short term I want to keep playing good footy and I feel in the past few weeks I’ve got my mojo back and am playing close to my best,” Bastinac said.

“In the long term we want to be relevant again as a football club. The more games we get into the young guys and the more exposure they get the better off we are going to be.

“It’s not fun being down the bottom. We want to be back up in the top eight and playing finals footy.”

This article first appeared on AFLPlayers.com.au

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