MILES BERGMAN could be forgiven for being front in line to check the selection board for this week’s SANFL and AFL practice games against Adelaide.
The teenager did not manage a senior game in 2020, navigating perhaps the strangest debut year among a group of players restricted to match simulation sessions as AFL restrictions meant Port Adelaide could not participate in the SANFL.
Now armed with a stronger frame, new housemates and a new hair style, the defender is ready for his AFL chance, but he won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t come this weekend.
“We haven’t had our sides decided yet but there’s a possibility of either (AFL or SANFL),” Bergman said during a press conference on Tuesday.
“I’m happy to just get a game in because last year I struggled to get many.”
Recruited with pick No.14 in the 2019 AFL National Draft as a midfielder/forward, an injury to his ankle last pre-season slowed his progress before COVID-19 almost halted it completely.
Rather than be disappointed with his inability to play senior footy, the 19-year-old Sandringham Dragons product has found the positives out of the year, including some key takeaways.
“The professionalism and knowing when to focus on footy and when to switch your mind off and relax a bit,” he explained during a press conference at Alberton on Tuesday.
“I learnt how to go about training and outside of that recovery as well, learning from the experienced guys like Travis Boak.
“I worked a lot on getting bigger in the gym… to bulk up to match the size of boys like Jonas and Clurey so I did a bit of work in the gym in the off-season as well as keeping up the running as well.
“The first year is always a new experience and (building) that size over the off-season has really helped. I’ve worked a bit on my contest game with Hamish Hartlett and it’s all been helping.”
Having added two centimetres and about six kilograms to his frame over the last 12 months, Bergman looks strong and ready to compete at AFL level.
A shift into the backline part-way through 2020 has been another challenge but he has settled in well, although he is well aware that it will be hard to break into the AFL’s meanest defence, especially with Aliir Aliir and Lachie Jones adding even more competition for spots.
“I’ve worked pretty closely with some of the other defenders to improve my craft and I’ve started to love it,” Bergman said of his move.
“Trying to adapt to a different role mid-season was a bit of a challenge but I’d played a bit of (defence) growing up so I picked it up pretty quickly.
“They’re all really great defenders and have been working really well together but I’m just grateful to learn from them and do my part to help them get better.
“I had a chat with most of the coaches and they thought it was a better chance for me to get a game to use my run and carry, kicking ability and intercept marking so hopefully I can showcase that and give it the best I’ve got.”
Bergman was named an AFL emergency on no fewer than seven occasions last season as he edged towards an AFL debut.
But he says coach Ken Hinkley chats with him “a couple of times per week” and he knows where he stands.
“He’s told me I’ve been doing alright but I’ve got to keep going, do what I can for the team and all the unselfish stuff as well,” Bergman said.
“It gives you a bit of a kick in your step, a bit of happiness and confidence in yourself but it just means I’m getting closer and it makes me want to push more for a spot.”
Off the field, the avid surfer and sometimes golfer has just moved into teammate Xavier Duursma’s house along with ruckman Sam Hayes.
The trio have a unique relationship but have embraced each other’s’ quirks.
“We muck around a little bit at home,” Bergman said.
“Duurs is the cleaner of the house, he loves everything being clean so he keeps us accountable sometimes.
“We all chip in with dinner and dishes and cleaning so it’s all going well.”
His hair is going well too.
The club’s internal trial saw him debut a hair tie to keep his long locks out of his face, and he is intent on keeping the look… for now.
“It might stay, it might go. It’ll depend how well I play,” he joked.
“There’s been a couple of jokes here and there but nothing serious yet.
“If (Ken) wants it to go, I guess I’ll have to cut it.”