Nelson Lane: Making His Mark

Sam Switkowski arrives at the loose ball on his side’s half forward flank, a pack swarms around him, Borough tacklers eager and desperate to tighten the net and limit the exits.

The clock reads thirty two and half minutes of a pulsating last term. Box Hill trail by seven points. The visiting Hawks, who’ve lead for much of the day and sit undefeated at the top of the table, look likely to cede both the contest and their perfect record.

Stops dig into the turf for mere hundredths of a second, each player settled for a solitary heartbeat, ‘Switta’ gathers the ball and fires out a handpass in the direction of goal. A teammate has slipped his man and gotten goal side; he’s read the play beautifully, realising he needn’t be sucked to the contest.

With possession his he turns, footsteps closing fast. He takes his time, closes to thirty five and measures his shot.

Thirty-two and a half minutes gone. Box Hill trail by one point.

The man with the ball in hand and the game on his boot remembers the moment vividly.

“I knew the pressure was on but it kind of brought me the calmness I needed, I guess.

“As I went to drop the ball I actually saw my hand shake a little bit, which I remember pretty distinctly but it went through and that’s what counts.”

Nelson Lane’s goal against Port Melbourne belied his relative inexperience and age. It was the goal of a player with terrific temperament and for some might’ve signalled his arrival on the VFL stage. Truth is, he’d arrived several weeks earlier.

In his first year at the club and with six appearances to his name already, you needn’t look too far in the rearview mirror to appreciate Lane’s form and contribution.

Having joined the club as a nineteen year old from the Eastern Ranges, Lane weighed up an extra year of TAC Cup footy but ultimately decided the exposure and experience afforded by the VFL was an opportunity very much worth pursuing.

“I was hoping to go round as a nineteen year old, but decided in the end that some bigger bodies in senior footy would be better for my development.

“I think last year I was very focused on playing the best I could to help my stocks for the draft, and now that I’ve made the move into VFL I’ve taken a different approach and looked to focus on my enjoyment of the game, buying into the club culture and playing at a really high standard,” says Lane.

“It’s been a really good change for me going forward.”

Lane was invited down to Box Hill to train, duly impressed and and the benefits of that decision – as well as his fresh approach to the game – can hardly be argued.

His expectations when he arrived at Box Hill City Oval were that of a young man content to ply his trade and bide his time.

“When I first got to the club I was thinking it would take me a while to crack into the senior team, with the club being so strong over the last couple of years,

“I was pretty surprised when Newy (Senior Coach Chris Newman) pulled me aside and said I’d be playing as the 23rd (man) against Williamstown.”

His performances since his debut have built a compelling case for his ongoing inclusion. With each passing week he becomes more settled, more sure of himself and more confident the level of competition isn’t beyond him.

In his own words, his role is about creating contests and working hard for his side with and without the ball.

“I’ve been thrown around a bit position wise but at the moment I’d say I just have to win or halve any contests I’m in, and provide some run and carry, breaking angles to find some space for us to work with.”

As for Newman, a man undertaking a fresh step in his own football journey, Lane couldn’t be more effusive in his praise.

“‘Newy’ has been a great influence on the side, promoting a free flowing style of gameplay as well as playing for our mates and backing ourselves in.

“He’s helped me out with my ball use which has been great because I used to be quite inefficient with how I used it, and this year I think I’m a bit better at helping us retain possession.”

As the season quickly unfolded and Newman was forced to re-jig the structure of his forward half tall timber gave way for speed. Its a style of play that requires unyielding work ethic and a commitment to pressure, not necessarily winning possessions.

Lane finds himself now playing as part of a fresh-faced small brigade, comprised of Switkowski, himself and Billy Murphy, among others; all of whom have birth certificates too fresh to have yet gathered dust.

What they’ve been able to produce – both collectively and individually – has been exciting to watch.

“In my first couple of games playing forward, ‘Switta’ was a real role model for how a small forward can really impact the game with manic pressure and causing turnovers forward of centre.

“I think our enthusiasm has been unreal to start the year and with the team’s success it’s hard not to enjoy.”

Lane’s early hopes to bed in and forge a way into the seniors on the back of solid development league form had to be reassessed, but his longer term ambitions remain very much the same.

“I’m still aiming to play at the highest level, but at the moment I’m very happy to be playing at Box Hill.

“I like to think I’m contributing to the team currently, so hopefully I can keep playing my role, keep contributing and help the Club go deep into finals.”

 

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