A switch from the wing to half-back was the catalyst behind Daniel McKenzie’s strong finish to 2016, which has now culminated in a two-year contract extension on the eve of his third season.
The 20-year-old inked a new deal with St Kilda on Monday, tying him to the club who picked him with selection No. 22 in the 2014 National Draft until at least the end of 2019.
After playing seven of the final eight games last year and finding a home as a small defender, McKenzie said he was thrilled to extend his time at St Kilda as he looks to secure a spot at half-back in 2017.
“(I’m) very happy. My contract ended at the end of this year, so just to get that confirmed at the start of the year is really good for the self-confidence,” McKenzie told saints.com.au on Monday afternoon.
“Now I can just go out and play my game without having to worry about what’s happening in the future.
“I sort of transitioned at the end of last season from a winger to a half-back and I’m just sticking to that half-back at the moment.
“Obviously spots are getting harder and harder to get because it just breeds a bit more competition. I guess St Kilda as a whole is just on the improve.”
Having previously suffered a bout of glandular fever and soft tissue setbacks over the pre-season period, McKenzie didn’t miss a beat this summer, emerging as one of the best runners at the club behind endurance beast Jarryn Geary and draftee Ed Phillips.
The Caulfield Grammar product said he was determined to find consistency on the track this pre-season after suffering setbacks across his first two summers in Seaford.
“(I’ve focused on) a bit of consistency (over the pre-season),” McKenzie said.
“I’ve been injured here and there over the last few pre-seasons but this year I’ve been on the track pretty much every session and that was one of my goals and I was able to achieve that.”
McKenzie featured in St Kilda’s first two JLT Community Series games against Port Adelaide and Carlton before missing out on the trip to Albury, which comprised the Saints’ strongest outfit ahead of Round 1.
With so much depth at half-back, McKenzie is one of a handful of players fighting for only a couple of roles and is determined to cement a spot down there this season after his positive finish to last year.
“(My goal is to) play as many games as possible and consolidate a position,” he said.
“There’s a few of us going through that half-back position at the moment. If I could just, in the coaches minds, consolidate a position every week that would be perfect.”