On and off the playing field, young gun Dion Prestia is showing Gold Coast’s midfield talent runs much deeper than captain and two-time Brownlow winner Gary Ablett.
Fresh off a career-defining 2013 campaign, where he averaged 25 disposals in 20 senior appearances, Prestia showed that at 21 years of age, he wasn’t about to rest on his laurels.
Through no fault of his own, Prestia’s career-best efforts put him under an immense amount of external pressure, with suggestions the pocket rocket was set to become a future leader of the Gold Coast Football Club. And to his credit, that is exactly what he has done.
In January, his leadership credentials were validated when he - alongside inaugural players David Swallow and Tom Lynch - was elected into a revamped six-man player leadership group; an important step forward in identifying the club’s captain-in-waiting.
Significantly, Prestia’s rise on-field didn’t take a backwards step, with Gold Coast’s newest deputy topping his previous best numbers, averaging 27 touches per game. That figure saw him ranked amongst the elite ball-winners in the AFL (15th).
He had a season-high 38 possessions against West Coast in round 13 and came mighty close to bettering that effort by turning in a 35-possession display when his team met the Western Bulldogs nearly a month later.
For assistant coach Matthew Primus, he couldn’t have been more pleased with how Prestia attacked his fourth season in the competition.
“Dion definitely took his game to another level; I thought his whole year was terrific,” Primus said.
“He won a heap of ball for us in the inside and also impressed with his outside, and became a real leader amongst the playing group, not just on game day, but on the training track as well.”
Primus said Prestia’s greatest test of character was learning to play through some of the top taggers in the AFL, with the absence of Gary Ablett resulting in increased responsibilities for the likes of Prestia, Swallow, Harley Bennell and Jaeger O’Meara.
“When Gary was out he became tagged, and even got tagged when Gary was playing, so that shows how highly respected he was from opposition teams.”
The stats that matter
Senior matches: 22
Disposals: 596 (27.1)
Marks: 83 (3.8)
Clearances: 118 (5.3)
Tackles: 102 (4.6)
Contested Possessions: 248 (11.27)
Inside-50s: 87 (3.9)
Rebounds: 43 (1.9)
What they said...
For coach Guy McKenna, the decision to appoint Prestia to the player leadership group was a no-brainer, with the small-in-stature but big-hearted midfielder a true workmanlike footballer.
"He'd be a teammate I'd love to have played with because you know what you'll get from him every minute of the game," McKenna said.
Prestia may have earned the maximum three Brownlow votes on offer against the Bulldogs in round 10 and St. Kilda in round 19, but it was his 38-disposal performance against West Coast in round 13 that captured the eye of goldcoastfc.com.au.
With the GC SUNS trailing by 35 points at three-quarter time, Prestia was instrumental in sparking a fourth quarter revival, collecting 11 touches and kicking an inspirational goal from beyond the 50m arc.
The SUNS hit the lead late in the game but would ultimately fall short by three points when the final siren sounded.
Prestia was awarded two Brownlow votes and topped the round 13 count in Gold Coast Club Champion voting for his efforts.