If things worked out differently for Tom McDonald last November, he'd have been at another AFL club and Melbourne would have started the season without a 2021 genuine key forward.
After a dire 2020 season where he booted just seven goals in nine games, McDonald and the Demons agreed a trade shaped as the best route for both parties.
But when a deal never happened, McDonald had no choice but to turn his Melbourne contract that runs until the end of 2022 into a different type of fresh start.
"When I agreed with the club that it might be best to look at other opportunities, that never really eventuated," McDonald told AAP.
"I thought that no matter where I am, I could still play some good footy and wanted to prove I could do that.
"So I thought I'd attack it a little bit differently and try some different training and probably just more had a mindset change as well - that's the way I went about it and hoped that it'd pay off."
While McDonald switched his focus from strength and power to agility and athleticism, Melbourne were dealt two major blows in February - with new recruit Ben Brown (knee) and Sam Weideman (leg) both ruled out for the opening 4-6 weeks.
So, just three days after watching younger brother Oscar boot two goals for Carlton on debut as a substitute, McDonald made his own mark on the MCG.
The 28-year-old clunked nine marks, collected 18 disposals and had six score involvements, including booting two goals to help sink Fremantle on Saturday.
"It was his competitive efforts - he marked the ball a few times but not once did he get outmarked when it was in his control," coach Simon Goodwin said.
"We're just so pleased for Tommy - he's put in an enormous amount of work."
For McDonald, a star of Melbourne's 2018 run to a preliminary final, it was a welcome "reward" and reminder of the form he knew he could deliver.
McDonald isn't sure what will happen when Brown and Weideman join he and youngster Luke Jackson in the forward line mix, but he's ready for whatever comes next.
"We couldn't play all four of us, I don't think, in the same forward line," he said.
"So I don't know what the coaches are planning - it might depend on who's playing well or maybe some different roles for different players.
"But I don't really know to be honest - I'll let the coaches do that."