Urquhart Wears Courage on his Sleeve

TWO TATTOOS remind North Melbourne defender Gavin Urquhart of the challenges set by his new life in a new city. Challenges he hopes have been left in the past.

After struggling with homesickness and injuries throughout 2007 – a "bit of bad year" – Urquhart had 'courage' and 'desire' inked to his forearms.

Fourteen games and a NAB AFL Rising Star nomination later, the Queenslander has adjusted to the demands of the AFL and has hit his third pre-season with expected vigour.

An inspiration then, the tattoos have similar importance now. Urquhart admits that "they're something I look at when I'm a bit down. They get me through every day.

"It was a big change for me," he said of his move to Melbourne when selected at No. 21 in the 2006 NAB AFL Draft. "I'd never lived away from my family before.

"I found it pretty hard but now I'm pretty settled in and everything's working out well."

Enjoying his first summer without interruption, Urquhart has pushed through an initial feeling of slugishness to have his sights set on round one.

Closing 2007 with a quad injury that hampered his preparations, he started last year with VFL club North Ballarat and performances eventually earned a home-state debut in round 10.

"Not many people get their first game back home with all their friends and family," Urquhart said of his 21-disposal outing against the Brisbane Lions.

"Ballarat was really good to me, looked after me and did all the right things. It paid off in the end and I was lucky enough to stay in for the rest of the season."

The 20-year-old did not miss a beat on North's road to the finals, which was emphasised by his round-18 NAB AFL Rising Star endorsement, and believes growing confidence in his ability will hold him in greater stead.

Naturally shy, he's also comfortable with how he's improved as a person but misses the advice he received from veteran Shannon Grant, who retired at the end of last year.

"He's a bloke that I talked to [a lot]," Urquhart said. "He helped me out a fair bit over the last couple of years, giving insight on what a really good half-forward does with the patterns he runs and all that kind of stuff."

Urquhart expects his responsibilities to increase with tougher opponents, and will turn to the experience of fellow backmen Leigh Harding, Daniel Pratt and Josh Gibson.

He understands that improving his strength in the contests is crucial, as is retaining the speed needed to break from half-back.

A couple of kilos lighter, attacking opportunities may come on a wing where Urquhart can make greater use of his disposal.

His stab passing and distance kicking – from either foot – regularly earns the praise of teammates in skill work and game simulation.

"It comes back to the more you practise, the better you get," he said. "There's nothing else you can really do. It doesn't come naturally for me either. I have to work hard for it."

Urquhart looks at North's newest recruits all too aware of what awaits them, but is in a position to pay forward the support he received in his early days.

Liam Anthony, secured in November's main pool, has moved in with him after shifting from Western Australia.

"Once those youngsters get an insight to what really happens at an AFL club, I'm sure they'll improve on and off the field as well," Urquhart said.

"Liam's actually a year older than me so I look up to him a bit. I guess we just feed off each other."


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