After an injury-hampered start to the season, WA-bred Western Bulldog Riley Garcia is finding his feet once again at AFL level.
The 21-year-old Swan Districts product missed two months in the first half of the year due to a knee injury, the same one he suffered a torn ACL in his draft year.
But since then, Garcia has broken back into the seniors for the past four matches including a sparkling two-goal, 14-disposal performance in the stunning win over Melbourne less than a fortnight ago.
“I had a hiccup with my knee at the start of the season, I did it in round five which was frustrating,” he said.
“I missed around two months with that which has probably been the most frustrating thing, not being able to get much continuity in the season.
“But I feel like I’ve bounced back from that injury quite well and found form in the VFL which has translated into the AFL which has been pleasing.
“The more games I play in the AFL side, the more my belief will grow.”
Despite his form, Garcia knows he’s on the edge of selection pretty much every week which he says has its pros and cons.
“That is a credit to how well the boys are going in the VFL,” Garcia said.
“I don’t think I’ll ever really feel settled in the team which can work in my favour, I’m always trying to get better and do as much as I can to hold my spot in the 22.”
He’s in a similar situation contract-wise, yet to be re-signed but at least heading in the right direction to stay on in 2023.
“It’s no doubt that I’m loving my time here but I guess I’ll leave that up to Tom (manager Tom Seccull) and keep trying to put in good performances at AFL level which hopefully holds me in good stead going forward,” Garcia said.
Garcia, whose younger brother Liam is playing colts for the Swans and older brother Callum recently represented the State country team against South Australia at Adelaide Oval, had enjoyed returning to somewhat of a post-COVID normality this year after limited time with family in his first two seasons in the system.
“The first two years of my AFL career were challenging with COVID and not seeing family, but it’s been great to have family come over and watch me play and just be able to see them and hang out with them,” he said.
As for Saturday’s season-defining clash at Marvel Stadium, Garcia is expecting the Dockers to bounce back from a winless few weeks.
“We know how much of a quality team they are so we’re expecting them to put their best foot forward and we’re looking forward to the challenge,” Garcia said.
Garcia said while he wasn’t too sure who his likely opponent would be, there was likely a lot of running involved either way.
“I’ll probably line up against those higher half backs like Jordan Clark and Brandon Walker which will be a good challenge,” he said.