FOR A FEW moments on Sunday night, Oli Tate studied the ladder and contemplated scenarios.
It is complicated, it is incredibly tight and there are few guarantees leading into the final round of the Victorian Football League.
He put the ladder away and will not look at it again this week.
Tate says he does not engage much in the hype of high-pressure matches – and a slip last week has put North Ballarat Roosters under intense pressure to win tomorrow – because all Tate really needs to know this week is to go out, like any week, and play hard for a win.
The 22-year-old knows how tough it can be to miss finals. He was dropped in his first year for the 2010 grand final and premiership to make way for the North Melbourne-listed Leigh Harding, and he tore his hamstring in the qualifying final against Williams-town at Box Hill a year later.
Tate knows how tough it can be to miss playing for an extended period, after battling with injury most of last year.
The combined experiences have made Tate determined to make the most of each game.
He knows for certain that he wants to be out playing for the Roosters in the VFL as much as possible.
“I was injured most of last year, playing just four games in the development league. I had a hip operation at the start of the year then came back and tore a medial ligament in my knee. That season was probably the one I had to have,” Tate said.
“I got to step away and realise exactly what I want to do.
“I was really looking forward to the time I could get back into it.”
Preparing and training for the VFL is a big commitment that Tate juggles with work and a busy study load for podiatry at La Trobe University.
But he would rather the juggle than to not be playing VFL at all.
Being based in Melbourne means Tate has to be
more disciplined than most.
Monday night recovery sessions and weights training is left up to him.
He car-pools with other players to Eureka Stadium for the Roosters main hit-out and tactical sessions on a Wednesday night.
Friday or Saturday mornings, Tate is among a privileged group of “Kangaroosters” to train at AFL partner North Melbourne’s Arden Street base and share facilities with Kangaroos players designated for VFL duty that week.
“I think there is a fair bit of confidence (Roosters coach) Fitzy holds in all the travellers,” Tate said.
“It takes a fair bit of self-motivation to get your weights done and your Monday recovery ... I don’t think it would suit all players but it works well for me.”
Discipline helped Tate in his rehabilitation last year to come back and make his mark on the Roosters’ line-up with his dash and attack off the half-back lines.
Promoted to the team’s leadership group last season, Tate has this year felt like more of an active leader about the club.
He continues to meet with head coach Gerard FitzGerald and football manager Marg Richards as a team leader in sub-comittee meetings.
But by getting out on field and playing an on-field role alongside established leaders Myles Sewell, Steve Clifton and captain Michael Searl, Tate said he felt more like a leader.
“It’s good to finally string a few games under my belt and find a lot more consistency,” Tate said.
“I try and use what I have learnt and help settle a few young kids into the side.”
The Roosters must be settled tomorrow.
Essendon, like Collingwood and Geelong with their own VFL lists, can fluctuate in form but is generally dominant.
Tate said the Roosters, on their day, could beat anyone.
And they must win this one against Essendon at Windy Hill.