COLLINGULLIE-Glenfield Park product Matt Kennedy admitted he was pleasantly surprised by Carlton's decision re-sign him long term, despite his consistent strong form for the Blues.
It's justifiable reward for the 25-year-old, who has been forced to prove his worth the hard way after he was retained by Carlton on its rookie list for 2021.
A purple patch of form when he broke back into the senior side during the back end of last year ensured he was elevated back to the senior list this season.
The tough inside midfielder has made every post a winner since, averaging just over 25 disposals, 11 contested possessions and five clearances in seven games this year.
Kennedy is in his fourth season with Carlton, and will play his 50th game for the club against former side Greater Western Sydney on Sunday.
"To be honest, I was actually in a little bit of shock when they mentioned they were looking to re-sign me," Kennedy told the AFL's website.
"I was just looking to play consistent footy and hopefully get another one-year deal at the end of the year. That's how I thought I was tracking.
"I feel like it's a big confidence-booster for myself and from the club, to back me in for three more years and to want to get it done early. I'm very grateful for the club to give me that opportunity."
Kennedy has spoken openly that a focus on putting less pressure on himself to play well has led to his career best form.
"I've done a fair bit of work with the mental side of things, it's about trying to enjoy all the little moments, because I don't know when my time is up," he told the Daily Advertiser after a 37-disposal game in a pre-season clash with defending premiers Melbourne in March.
"I try and have fun and enjoy the game and training, and not put too much pressure on myself. If I play it's great, if I don't I can probably come back and play for Gullie.
"Not being injured the last couple of years, getting some pre seasons under my belt and being able to cover the ground more has helped.
"I got some confidence in the back end of last year with my body of work.
"(Assistant coach) Luke Power has been working on running patterns, transition and reaction with me, it's something I've worked on the past year and built confidence with that every week.
"I had a good chat with him and our midfield coach Tim Clarke at the start of the year that I still have to play to my strengths, which is contested ball, but it's hard to sustain that every week.
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