AFL pre-season has officially begun with young players and new coaches turning out for day one, while some veterans also headed back weeks ahead of schedule.
New Giants coach Adam Kingsley says he’s taking inspiration from Collingwood’s ability to rise from the bottom four to the top four, while returning St Kilda coach Ross Lyon admits “dusting off the harness” on his first day of training.
Younger players got to train alongside veterans who opted to return early, given those outside of the first to fourth year program aren’t due back until December.
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Essendon young gun Archie Perkins spoke about the influence of new coach Brad Scott on Monday, believing some of the older players had returned early as a result.
“I think he’s made sure that everyone is in the mindset that we’re ready to get here and get stuck in and work hard. I think he’ll drive some really strong standards which I think we need as a group,” he said on Scott.
“I think any pre season you come expecting to work hard and be challenging.
“At times we might have felt we were sort of unsure what direction we were heading in. Now Brad’s been really clear it’s going to be a lot of focus on development and a really strong pathway to follow.
“There’s a big turnout here (on Monday) and there’s been a big turnout at some trainings for the last month.
“I think with the new coach and all the changes, a lot of senior boys have been really keen to get stuck into it a bit earlier.
“You always want to start well, but I don’t think we’ll have the mentality to go out there and prove people wrong.”
While some clubs were celebrating the return of injured stars, including Carlton’s George Hewett (back) and Port Adelaide’s Orazio Fantasia (leg), West Coast are reportedly dealing with another soft tissue problem with captain Luke Shuey.
Shuey reportedly injured his calf, adding to his lengthy history of soft tissue drama, but was filmed running laps unhindered at the club’s base on Monday.
“From what I’ve heard, he’s not too bad and he’ll be back when the (older) boys return (in December),” youngster Brady Hough said.
The Eagles defender said he was focused on adding more weight to his frame this pre-season after playing “a bit undersized” in 2022.
“I was a pretty lightweight player last year,” he said. “I didn’t feel out of place at all, but putting on a few kilos won’t hurt and maintain that running capacity will be pretty good I hope.
“There’s good unity within the group … just shows how keen the group is to get back on track.”
At the Giants, the likes of Toby Greene and Josh Kelly hit the training track in “good shape” alongside the youngsters in positive signs for the club.
“We were really pleased with the session,” Kingsley said.
“They’ve all returned really well which is pleasing, ready to attack training.
“To be fair, a lot of them have been here for a fortnight training anyway getting their sessions done at the club given the facilities so it’s been a bit easier for them.”
Kingsley said he hoped the Giants could emulate the Magpies record run in 2022 when the 2023 season starts.
“Collingwood for instance were in our situation last year, or two years ago and under ‘Fly’ (coach Craig McRae) were able to spark and finish top four,” he said.
“Are we able to do that? I do not know. What I do know is it’s a really hard competition to play in and we’ve got to show up each and every week with our best.
“I think (Collingwood) did a fantastic job last year and certainly an example to us that anything’s possible. If we put in the work on the training ground, who knows what’s possible come game day. That’s how we’ll attack it.”
Lyon, the returning Saints coach who only stepped into the role a few weeks ago, said he was happy to be back at the helm on Monday.
“Sort of pinching myself that I’m back involved,” he said.
“Dusted off the harness really, it’s all starting to drop in. Really exciting times but a lot of hard work to be done.”