As housemates, Alex Witherden admits he and Cameron Rayner are battling.
But, as teammates for the Brisbane Lions, it’s a different story.
The pair, aged 20 and 19 respectively, have played their part in the Lions’ stark 2019 turnaround which has them within reach of a minor premiership with two regular-season games to play.
With a win against top side Geelong, they would jump the Cats into first before a clash with Richmond going into the finals.
Witherden has emerged as one of the Lions’ best young talents ahead of his 50th AFL appearance on Saturday, while No.1 draft pick Rayner’s second season had started slowly.
But the imposing talent has cast aside the criticism, showing signs of his barnstorming best to excite his good mate before their finals debut.
“A 19-year-old kid, moved away from family and friends, living with me, a 20-year-old who still has no idea what he’s doing,” Witherden said.
“But between the two of us, we’ve started to work it out a little bit and he’s shown maturity beyond his years to be able to deal with all that external noise, put it behind him and come out the other side and play good footy,” Witherden said.
“There’s been a lot of blokes in the past to go the other way but it’s true to his character – he likes to stick it up people and I think that’s what he’ll do in the next couple of weeks and, hopefully, in the finals series.”
Witherden revealed a sit-down with Luke Hodge had also helped Rayner to refocus in another example of the impact the former Hawthorn premiership captain had had since moving north.
“Fages (coach Chris Fagan) has also stuck really fat with him (by not demoting him to reserve grade) and that gave him confidence (as well),” he said.
“We still held him in high regard and now he’s starting to reap the rewards; he’s slimmed down a bit, working hard and he’s playing at his dynamic best.”