Young Gold Coast defender Mac Andrew says 2023 has been a huge learning curve after serving two club-imposed bans for off-field misdemeanours earlier in the year.
Andrew was suspended for the first two games of the season after being charged for driving under the influence of alcohol over his Christmas break, and then copped a one-match sanction for missing a recovery session in May.
The 19-year-old has forced his way back into the AFL, playing the past six games, and has been a shining light in a tough stretch for the SUNS, with Sunday's 16-disposal, eight-mark performance against Greater Western Sydney arguably the best of his young career.
Speaking on Tuesday, Andrew said he had learned a lot from his second season in the League.
"I just learned to not take my opportunity for granted, the opportunity I have in front of me," he said.
"And to just be grateful for the job I get to do every day.
"I'm still learning and everyone around me is still helping with that; the leaders, the coaching staff, the playing group, they've all supported me."
The No.5 pick in the 2021 AFL Draft, Andrew said the first sanction was particularly difficult, having to cope while the club was on leave.
He said moving to Queensland from Victoria after being drafted had its challenges, but he now had some senior players to help guide him.
"It was a bit tricky coming up when I was 17, I didn't really know what was expected of me," he said.
"I'm just learning from some of the older guys like 'Collo' (Sam Collins), Charlie Ballard and living with Mabior (Chol) now, I'm just taking bits out of what they do away from the footy club, and that has helped me a lot."
Collins was part of the leadership group that handed down the sanctions and said he could not have been more impressed with Andrew's response.
"I think maybe it's just dawned on him how quickly he can be a great AFL footballer and his week is now looking like a real professional footballer and there's a lot of consistency there," Collins said.
"He's been really open minded about it. He hasn't been absolutely perfect, but you can see he's hungry to learn.
"He's a really young kid, he's got a lot of talent and he's in a professional environment, so it's a massive change for him and it's just taken him a little while to adjust, but now that he has, it's pretty awesome to see how well he's going."