At the end of the 2017 AFL season, Tom Cole had doubts about how long he'd last at the highest level.
The former Sandhurst and Bendigo Pioneers player had managed just six games for the West Coast Eagles in his opening two years and he wondered whether he was good enough to maintain a place on a high quality Eagles list.
Two-and-a-half seasons later Cole has a premiership medal and on Sunday he reaches the 50-game milestone.
"After those first two years I wasn't sure if I was ready for AFL and I had doubts if I'd ever make it.
"It wasn't until 2018 that I cracked into the team and to now get to 50 games is a nice little milestone, but hopefully there's many more to come.
"Aside from a little form slump last year where I was in and out of the team, I've been able to keep my spot in the team pretty consistently.
"Simmo (coach Adam Simpson) has kept faith in me and I've tried to repay that faith.
"It's been nice to stretch some games together the last few years."
Cole broke his thumb in the Eagles' opening pre-season clash with Essendon.
The injury required surgery and he was set to miss 10 games, but the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a blessing of sorts for Cole.
By the time the AFL resumed from lockdown he was fit and ready to play.
Cole returned for the round four loss to Port Adelaide and has been one of the Eagles most consistent players in their current seven-game winning streak.
"We're a role driven team and I just try to perform my role to the best of my ability each week,'' Cole said.
"You won't see me get a heap of disposals, but we all have important roles to play and I'm just trying to do my part.
"That's all the coaches ask of me."
In his 49 games for the Eagles, Cole has an impressive 35-14 win-loss record.
Being part of a successful organisation like the Eagles is something the 23-year-old never takes for granted.
"I always think about how lucky I am to be part of a successful team,'' he said.
"I hate losing and I really don't know what it's like for us to lose consistently.
"Hopefully, that continues in the future."
Read more: Family savours Cole's grand final glory
His milestone game on Sunday is against the Greater Western Sydney Giants.
In his three previous clashes against the Giants, Cole hasn't lost to last year's grand finalists.
There's every chance his opponent on Sunday night will be another former Bendigo Pioneer - Brent Daniels.
"I might play on Brent this weekend, which will be interesting because he's a star,'' Cole said.
"He's pretty fast, so it will be tough to keep up with him."
Sunday's game is the Eagles last match at home before they return to "bubble life" in Queensland.
An eighth-straight win would be a huge boost to the Eagles' top-four hopes.
"We've been on a roll, so it would be nice to finish the block in Perth with a win,'' he said.
"It will be tough because GWS will probably have their best side this week. They're a good side and they've beaten some good sides this year, so hopefully we can get the job done."
Read more: Catch up on all the latest local footy news
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