Complete package: Jake Stringer isn’t getting the credit he deserves

It was only a few years ago that Jake Stringer was a one-man highlight reel.

All-Australian in 2015 and a premiership player the following year, he played with a mix of explosiveness and flair, booting 98 goals across those two seasons.

Improved package: Jake Stringer has grown his game at the Bombers.Credit:AAP

But now, after emerging from the toughest period of his short career, I would argue the 2019 version of "The Package" is far more complete, and, because he's no longer quite as flashy, Stringer probably isn't getting the credit he deserves.

It has been some turnaround.

It wasn't all that long ago there were doubts about whether he could recapture his top form because of several factors.

His fitness was questioned, and so too his attitude as he dealt with some issues outside of football.

The knock on him was that his best was very good, while at his worst he was a passenger. If Stringer wasn't kicking goals, he wasn't contributing because he lacked a more defensive side.

Now though, he's more consistent than spasmodic. He's not just about marks and goals, but focused on every aspect of the game.

Stringer has got his body in shape and can push into the midfield and become an important clearance player at centre bounces. He's also willing to tackle and harass.

Rather than fly for the spectacular marks every time the footy comes in his direction, he knows when to leap and when to be more conservative.

Often maligned in his final years at the Western Bulldogs and then when he initially moved to Essendon, Stringer has clearly become more unselfish as well.

His first thought, for the most part, is about his teammates and making them better. Some, including me, probably didn't think he had that in his make-up, but now it seems the penny has finally dropped.

We can sometimes be pretty harsh as an industry on these guys, given everyone matures at a different rate. We judge and criticise young players after one or two years in the system, often putting them in a box as being "this" or "that" type of person or footballer.

It's a credit to Stringer that he's begun changing the perception of himself.

With the injury to Joe Daniher, he'll need to play a key role if the Bombers are to make any sort of September charge.

Perhaps more suited to being, pardon the pun, a third or fourth stringer in terms of forward options, he's being asked to be the No.2 or even No.1 target. Already this season, barring the game he was injured, he has carried that burden well.

His role becomes even more crucial on Friday night against a side like Hawthorn.

As we know, the Hawks love to have a defender zone off to intercept as the third man up. Their captain Ben Stratton is a really smart player and James Sicily is right up there with the likes of Jeremy McGovern as one of the best intercept players in the competition.

Stringer needs to present and be that option down the line, creating a contest often when he's outnumbered.

He might not take mark of the century, but bringing the ball to ground is just as valuable when he's fighting against his own opponent and any spare man. That's another area in which he's certainly improved.

At different times, Stringer has been more inclined to try and lead back into space looking for the kick over the top, rather than leading at the ball-carrier.

When your only go-to is leading back towards goal, it's much easier to defend. Since he's added that extra dimension, he's been a much tougher proposition.

While the likes of Daniher (when fit), Dylan Shiel, Michael Hurley, Cale Hooker, Zach Merrett and skipper Dyson Heppell often seem to get more of the plaudits, I'd argue Stringer has been just about the best of the lot so far this season.

He's flown under the radar and probably been a little underrated.

Having said that, as Essendon fight to keep their finals hopes intact on Friday night, Stringer has the chance to put his name up in lights once again.

So, don't be surprised if new and improved "Package" delivers.

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