JARRYD Lewis had no inkling when he moved into a defensive post for the first time in his distinguished football career that it would result in a runner-up finish in a league best and fairest.
The North Warrnambool Eagles veteran, now 32, had spent the entirety of his playing days - juniors and seniors - in attacking roles.
He'd carved a named for himself in the Hampden league as a creative small forward.
But, as the Eagles tried to plot a path to the 2023 grand final, the Warrnambool Primary School teacher was moved into the back line.
It reaped immediate results with Lewis' attacking flair and clean skills complementing his teammates and catching the umpires' attention.
He finished joint runner-up in the Maskell Medal on Sunday, September 17, just one vote behind teenage sensation Hamish Sinnott (Camperdown) and equal with South Warrnambool midfielder Josh Saunders.
"It was a bit of a surprise. Who would've thought six months ago we'd be here but strange things happen in footy," Lewis told The Standard.
"It was something (coach) Adam Dowie and I had spoken about last year.
"A couple of rounds in this year I got injured and we talked about how I could best utilise some of my strengths and we thought if we were going to give it a go we wanted to do it earlier in the year, just to see how I went.
"I played a couple of games down there and it seemed to work and I just haven't looked back."
Lewis has embraced a new challenge, saying it was "a big change".
"It's given me a spark and it feels like a second coming of my career," he said.
"I definitely seem to pull up a bit better on Sundays - you don't have someone defending against you and it's not as physical.
"Playing as a forward, going back I have had that offensive mindset. As a defender, your job is to defend but in the game nowadays it is really important you have an offensive component.
"Having a good back six around me helps as well."
Lewis, who recalls finishing in the top 10 in 2016, was stunned with his Maskell Medal feat.
"It was a very even year and the count reflected that - it was a low-scoring count and there was a few votes separating the top 10," he said.
"I didn't go in with great expectations and especially considering I didn't start playing decent footy until halfway through the year.
"I thought that I'd be well behind but it just goes to show, all you need is a few three-vote games and you can rocket up the leaderboard.
"I was probably lucky to get a few best on grounds and that helped."
Lewis' attention now turns to the Eagles' fourth grand final in the past six completed seasons.
They will play South Warrnambool at Reid Oval on Saturday, September 23.
"Knowing it's Adam's last year coaching us, it does have a different sense," he said.
But Lewis, who would love to deliver a drought-breaking flag to the Eagles' faithful, has a more relaxed take on football in the twilight of his career.
"As I have got older I tend not to worry too much about it. I think back to my first one down here, it was all I thought about and you think about the game over and over," he said.
"It doesn't work for you, it puts you under more pressure, so now I think 'what will be will be'.
"All we've got to worry about is preparing properly and understanding if we play to our best that we're capable."
Win, lose or draw Lewis knows wife Emily and daughter Gigi, almost two, will be there for him.
"That (becoming a dad) has put a lot more perspective on life and made me realise footy is just a small part of it and that's probably helped me throughout last year's finals and this year's finals," he said.
"After the game, win, lose or draw she'll always be there with a smile."
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