Injuries, surgeries, concussion, a pandemic, and a complete change of position have all been part of the rollercoaster ride to 50 AFL games for up-and-coming defender Wil Powell.
The 21-year-old is set to reach the milestone at Marvel Stadium tomorrow night against the Tigers as he looks to build upon a breakthrough year of sorts.
It’s been an action-packed ride to 50 games for Powell whose fearless attitude towards a contest is developing the slight-framed wingman-turned-defender a reputation as one of the most courageous young talents around.
After battling concussion early in his career and racking up 20 games during his first two seasons on the Gold Coast, he was slated to miss a fair chunk of the 2020 season before the timing of the AFL’s lockdown proved to be a blessing in disguise.
He ended up missing just Round 1 and regained his place in the side for Round 2 three months later, eventually playing out 14 of the remaining 15 matches.
A natural outside midfielder, Powell was thrust into defence mid-season in 2020 for team balance and proved his versatility as a player with some strong performances in the backline, eventually finishing a career-best eighth in the SUNS best and fairest count.
That 2020 form has shown no signs of withering in 2021 with the 21-year-old putting up career-best numbers throughout the opening half of the campaign.
Regularly featuring strongly in the Austworld Player of the Round voting, the 49-gamer is showing experience beyond his years averaging 18 disposals and only trailing key defender Sam Collins in the intercepts per game stakes for the SUNS.
Speaking to SUNS Media earlier this season, Powell says it’s simply confidence in himself and his ability that’s allowed his game to go to another level.
“I think it’s just confidence and believing in myself. I’m my own worst critic. I go into games now with a mentality to not sweat on the small mistakes and move straight on,” Powell said.
“I’ve also got a bit of a routine during the week. I know if I’ve ticked everything off, I’m going to have a good game.”
Despite being in just his fourth AFL season, and still a self-confessed “bit of a kid”, Powell says he’s looking at putting more of an onus upon himself to help develop and pave the way for the SUNS younger defenders.
“Especially with the young boys down back, I feel like I have a bit more responsibility. I’m still a bit of a kid, but I’m still trying to grow the leadership within that young group of players,” Powell continued.
“They’re the players who will build us to player better footy.”