Neal-Bullen happy to play Dees offsider

·2-min read

Since the night in November 2014 when he joined Christian Petracca and Angus Brayshaw as Melbourne's fresh-faced draftees, Alex Neal-Bullen has been happy to play the offsider.

Petracca and Brayshaw were the picks No.2 and No.3 destined to lead the Demons out of the doldrums, while the less-heralded South Australian had to wait until No.40 to hear his name called.

Ever since, Neal-Bullen has shared the ups and downs of AFL football with his draft mates.

While Petracca and Brayshaw overcame an ACL tear and repeat concussions respectively, Neal-Bullen pushed through injuries and an uncertain future at Melbourne in 2020 before locking in his spot at half-forward.

All three became premiership players in 2021.

"I'm very privileged to have been through their journey with them and we've all had to rely on each other at certain times throughout our journey," Neal-Bullen told AAP.

"Early on, it was Christian who had an injury setback in his first year. You've seen him come through that and the player he is now.

"Angus with his concussion issues early days and you now look at the power of work he's done.

"I'm very proud to be a part of their draft year but also see them develop and we just continue to push each other.

"We're all leaders in this club now, the three of us. We have a close bond and over the years we'll continue to grow and we'll have that forever."

Neal-Bullen's relationship with coach Simon Goodwin also stretches back to "day one" at Melbourne.

"I'll never forget, coming from Adelaide as an 18-year-old to the big, wide world of Melbourne, I had never really been here before - and he was there to greet me at the airport," he said.

"There's definitely that bond there through my whole journey of being a footballer.

"He gets the best out of me and I feel like I can I can assist him in his own coaching journey and one day look back on where we've both come from."

Neal-Bullen, Petracca and Brayshaw all now have more than 100 AFL games behind them.

The 26-year-old is certain their resilience can help their push for a second flag, starting with Friday's qualifying final against Sydney.

"The theme of our whole group is over the years we were never given anything. We came into a club that was on the rebuild," Neal-Bullen said.

"We understand the position we're in now.

"Not every club gets the opportunity to play in finals, so as leaders, we're going to make the most of this opportunity."