They say when one door closes, another one opens, and Sydney University forward Tristan Davies is proof of that.
It’s been a rocky road for the 23-year-old since joining the Students in early 2018, but he’s put all that behind him to produce a standout season to sit second on the NEAFL Leading Goalkicker leaderboard with 26 majors at the halfway point of the season.
A huge turnover of Sydney University’s list – including the departure of two-time Driscoll medallist Jacob Derickx – allowed Davies to assume the No.1 forward role in 2019. He only managed eight NEAFL games last year, but starred in the AFL Sydney competition with 58 goals from 13 matches.
“I didn’t feel like I was playing much worse football as I have been this year but the biggest difference has been the opportunity with a few of the senior blokes (leaving), Davies told neafl.com.au.
“Those positions needed to be filled so I think that I was just the next in line… but I guess that was my opportunity to slot in off the back of some good (AFL Sydney) Premier League form.”
Davies moved to Sydney in early 2018 to pursue his masters in physiotherapy at Sydney University and made the move to play for the Students after previously playing for Coburg and Williamstown in the VFL.
Sydney University coach Tom Morrison said it was the just the right fit for the club and Davies.
“He is pretty spectacular in the air and… we knew a couple of the guys that were playing at Williamstown with him and they contacted us and said give him a call,” Morrison said.
“He dominated the local competition averaging on five goals a game, (but) he probably just didn’t translate that into NEAFL form when he got his opportunities.”
Davies admitted that missing a large chunk of pre-season in 2018 put him on the back foot with the transition to NEAFL football.
“I didn’t really have much of a pre-season when I first got to the club so fitness and my running capacity needed to improve so that was probably the biggest change,” he said.
“The VFL probably has a lot more contested footy with a lot heavier bodies whereas I feel the NEAFL is a bit quicker and is a bit more skilful, so fitness was a big thing that I had to work on once arriving.”
As well as his work on the training track Davies believes growing more comfortable in Sydney helped with his on-field performance.
“It was obviously a big transition last year, there was a lot of external stresses moving interstate and growing up, which you try not to let it impact your football but it is always going to,” he said.
“(I am) definitely a lot more comfortable in Sydney now. I have a better network up here now and now I am a lot closer to a lot of the boys.”
Morrison believes Davies’ hard work over the past pre-season as well as new opportunities has helped him shape into one of the most dangerous key forwards this year.
“He worked extremely hard over the pre-season and it’s important to have a good pre-season if you want to start the season well,” he said.
“There was a real opportunity for some of our younger talls (given the departure of Jake Derickx). We have restructured the way that we play and how we set up in the forward line he has just taken advantage of his opportunity.
“His fitness has just gone through the roof compared to where he was at last year and his marking ability is ridiculous.
“The biggest improver of his game though is his pressure and ability when the ball hits the deck.”
Davies and Sydney University will have an important three weeks of football taking on the GIANTS, Canberra and the Gold Coast as they look to consolidate their position within the top six.
Morrison said each player will need to work on delivering their role to the team as well as producing consistent four quarter efforts if they want to feature in finals
“Every player just needs to develop their role for the team individually, each player on our list is probably aware of the area that they need to improve upon,” he said.
“It will also be about just leveraging advantages that we have, because everyone is in the team for a reason.”