WITH three strong seasons of NEAFL football to his name, Canberra’s Matt Vardanega will reach his 50-game milestone against Southport on Saturday in arguably career-best form.
Recruited from the Queanbeyan Tigers in 2016, the versatile defender made his NEAFL debut in Round 1 of 2016 for the GWS GIANTS.
Vardanega played a further thirteen matches that year, before establishing himself as a regular member of Canberra’s line-up last season, playing 18 of 23 matches, including the club’s elimination final win over Sydney University.
The 20-year-old says he is excited to be bringing up the milestone this weekend, but is hoping it’s just the start of his career in the NEAFL.
“I’m really excited,” Vardanega said.
“It’s a little milestone and hopefully I can keep building on it.”
The 186cm defender has played every game this season, relishing the opportunity to spend more time across halfback.
As a result he’s finding more of the ball, averaging almost 20 disposals per game, including a career-high 22 touches against the NT Thunder in Round 8.
“It’s been a relatively good start to the year that hopefully I can keep building on” Vardanega said.
“I’ve found myself a little bit higher up the ground at times, getting a little bit more of the ball, so it’s been good in that sense that I haven’t been as much of a lock down defender.
“As long as I’m in the team I’m pretty happy.”
Canberra, who currently sit 5th on the NEAFL ladder will look to claim their third consecutive win when they travel to Southport this weekend, and Vardanega is confident that his side can match it with the reigning premiers.
“I think we’re building quite nicely,” he said.
“We’d like to obviously work our way up the ladder with some consecutive wins and some good form, but (I’m) not too worried about how we’re going.
“The results haven’t quite gone our way but our performances have been relatively solid, except for a couple of lapses in games that have inevitably cost us wins.”
Rising to big occasions hasn’t been an issue for the up-and-coming Demon, something he attributes to years of development and some good mentors.
“I'm starting to really back myself,” Vardanega said.
As mentors go, Vardanega said experienced teammate and coach Kade Klemke has been a big influence.
“He sees the game as well as anyone, he’s a really, really smart man,” he said.
“He’s obviously skilful, but just the way he approaches his footy I think I learn well from that.
“He's really smart about how he goes about his footy, so if I can learn anything from him I'm happy.”