HE burst onto the scene last year in impressive fashion, but Leeton product Cooper Sharman says being forced to work back into St Kilda's side the hard way will help his cause.
The 21-year-old leading forward kicked ten goals in four games in the back end of last year after he was picked up by the Saints in the mid-season draft after a stint in SANFL.
But the emergence of some young guns and the remarkable rise of mature age recruit Jack Hayes meant Sharman had to bide his time in the VFL.
He returned at the ideal time for St Kilda's ten-point win over Geelong last week, booting a goal in their six-goal run late in the third quarter which set up the victory.
Sharman got a recall after Dan Butler went down with an achilles injury, and said he knew he would have to wait his turn given sixth-placed St Kilda has now won six of nine games this year.
"We had a really good start to the season. A few new blokes came in and made their debuts and I had to wait a bit longer than I expected," Sharman said.
"I was absolutely stoked with how they were playing and you don't make many changes after good wins, I just had to bide my time.
"My VFL form to start the year was probably a bit poor, which is why I wasn't getting a game early."
Despite his brilliant start to his AFL career last season, Sharman said he never expected to be handed a round one spot.
"Even after I had those good games last year there was still the real concept I wouldn't be in the starting team for round one," he said.
"Just with some of our changes and if we had back our rucks Paddy Ryder and Rowan Marshall available, they'd need one less tall forward.
"Geelong has been a bogey team for us. We had two losses last year and our last win was 2016. It was a mental barrier and coming off two losses, we couldn't afford to make it two in a row. It was a fantastic performance.
"I had a role to play on Tom Stewart to minimise his impact, which hopefully allowed some of the other boys a chance to run at it."
The AFL world is waiting to see if St Kilda are the real deal after their strong start.
In previous years a win over highly fancied opposition like Geelong, their first over the Cats since 2016, would be followed by some patchy form.
"We've got a bit of work to do to match those teams. Melbourne beat us rather convincingly (by 38 points in round eight) and we still need to bridge that gap" Sharman said.
"But we feel like we've got a pretty good side and if we're injury free we can challenge those teams over the next couple of years."
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