A game-high 31 possessions from first-year Essendon midfielder Elijah Tsatas helped steer the Bombers' VFL side to a thrilling win over Geelong on Sunday, with the teenager doing his prospects of an AFL debut no harm.
The fifth overall pick from last year's National Draft, Tsatas spent the first half of the season sidelined due to a meniscus injury that the young onballer sustained in January, with a return not coming until June through the state league competition.
Tsatas has now notched up five games in the red and black's reserves so far in 2023, averaging 25.8 disposals, 6.8 clearances 3.4 marks and 3.6 tackles in the VFL as a leading figure through Leigh Tudor's midfield.
Essendon would snap a nine-game losing streak in Tsatas' fourth game of the year, with the Surrey Park junior recording a season-best 34 possessions against Gold Coast as the Bombers claimed their third win thanks to a post-siren match-winner from Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti.
That victory would also see the Bombers claim the scalp of the competition's form team and keep the Victorian club in contention for a finals finish.
Their hopes of a top 10 spot were buoyed over the weekend with a second straight close win, this time coming over Geelong at Kardinia Park by 10 points.
Tsatas would record 31 possessions, 11 clearances and six marks to help pull his side over the line, with a late goal from Alastair Lord cementing the victory.
The game was another hard-fought result for Essendon, with Tsatas thrilled to be part of the win and representing the Dons after a delayed start to his debut season.
While the likes of fellow 2022 draftees Harry Sheezel and Will Ashcroft look to tussle for this year's Rising Star honours, Tsatas is satisfied on his own path, noting to Channel 7 after Sunday's win that "my time will come".
"Everyone's journey is different," Tstatas told the broadcaster.
"It's awesome to see (Ashcroft and Sheezel playing well). They're my close mates and to see them at the highest level, I envy them a little bit but I know my time will come.
"It's awesome being at the Bombers.
"Who knows (how far away a debut is). It's up to the coaches at the end of the day. I'm just so happy to be out on the park. After having such a long rehab stint it's so awesome to be out here."
Speaking on the result, Tsatas acknowledged the efforts of his teammates to notch up another win in a tight contest.
"It was an unbelievable game," the young midfielder said.
"We played in a similar one the other week against Gold Coast. Credit to the boys, we stuck at it, a four-quarter effort. It was unbelievable to be a part of.
"It was one of the hardest games I've played, on this big ground and we gritted through right until the end, we had to.
"We got the four points in the end."
A debut could be around the corner for Tsatas thanks to his form in the VFL, with AFL senior coach Brad Scott potentially pondering changes to his squad for Round 19 after a 77-point loss to Geelong on Saturday night.
The Bombers will host the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium on Friday as they look to retain their place in the top eight, while Essendon's VFL side will clash with Williamstown at DSV Stadium - also on Friday night.