Even Snelling admits he sometimes walks off the ground after an Essendon game uncertain about whether what he has done has influenced the play and kept the bosses content.
But the Bombers are happy with Snelling’s performance, having applied 28 tackles to sit third in the club on that raw measure, knowing he has improvement to come as his game outside the contest develops.
“[The role] suits me in a way. It allows me to use my running as a weapon and I have learned some forward craft over the pre-season complementing the mids,” Snelling said.
“On a good day you get rewarded but a lot of the time it is head down and bum up.”
That’s football reality for plenty of players like Snelling, with the former captain of South Australia’s under-18 team only getting a second chance when the Bombers made the shrewd choice to pick him in the mid-season draft after they could not find a ruckman they wanted.
This year more than ever it is going to be a wide open race for the top eight spots.
Snelling, who is studying health and medical science at Adelaide University, grabbed his chance, moving to Victoria with his former West Adelaide teammate and now Collingwood defender John Noble and getting to work, with little time to make an impression.
“You have only got three or four months here so you have to have a crack. That [mid-season draft] was a good circuit breaker in my mind … just go for everything and make it yours. You don’t really have the luxury of waiting around,” Snelling said.
That attitude saw him in the Bombers team a little over 12 months ago and he has played every game this season.
On the way he has continued a run of accuracy he was not aware of until told, having kicked nine goals without kicking a behind in a goalkicking career that spans from when he kicked his first major in the last quarter of Port Adelaide’s 2016 season. Snelling was keen to pass that information on with a grin to his forwards coach Dan Jordan when told.
It shows how he has settled in at the Bombers, sitting below the once-in-a-lifetime Marlion Pickett and alongside Noble on the list of success stories from the 2019 mid-season draft.
On the wrong end of arguably the worst decision of the year, when he was penalised for laying a dangerous tackle on Collingwood’s Callum Brown, his measured personality comes to the fore when asked about the call.
“I can see why it was paid. Even when I saw the replay I was a bit rattled by it,” Snelling said.
He has sympathy with the umpires who are only attempting to protect the players’ heads. “We all get one wrong occasionally,” Snelling said.
That’s a line recruiters are well versed in using but in Snelling’s case it looks like Essendon got the selection right, and Snelling hopes he can continue to play his part with the Bombers as they continue their tilt in the craziest of seasons.
“We’re really bullish about our potential and how when we play our best footy we look really good,” Snelling said. “This year more than ever it is going to be a wide open race for the top eight spots.”
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.