Snapshot: The list went into its second pre-season under Mark Neeld further advanced than in the previous year. The club had to take a long-term view, setting its sights on having the group well prepared when it is mature enough to become a contender. This is unlikely to be this year but it may happen sooner than many observers expect as the club prepares with urgency and tries to fast-track the progress of its youngsters. The club had a pre-season training camp in the heat and humidity of Darwin and remains a team under close direction as it develops a harder edge and continues to learn a style of play that will stand up in finals. With the fitness base becoming stronger and the list more balanced – the club introduced 14 newcomers in the off-season – the players will continue to advance their understanding of what is required on-field and, presumably, be given the opportunity to express themselves more and more. Again the club goes into a season without great experience among its young talent but with a better handle on what the coaching staff expects and what their teammates demand. It needs a couple of stars to emerge from the pack during 2013 to generate some excitement.
Break: Young players return after Christmas on January 2, the main group on January 7.
Draftee watch: Jimmy Toumpas has been on a modified program after hip surgery in August but hopes to be in full training when the group resumes. He has impressed whenever on the track, with his ball use excellent. Jack Viney's workload has stepped up while mature-agers Dean Terlich and Matt Jones have joined in full training. Jones looks a hard-nut while Dominic Barry and Dean Kent will be given time to develop physically.
Burning: Housemates Dan Nicholson and Tom McDonald always lead the way in the running. Aaron Davey is taking on the challenge to rekindle his career. He put in a great session while in Darwin, reminding everyone of his skills. James Magner and Nathan Jones are both hard trainers whether running or in the physical contest and are continuing to push the group to be hard at the ball.
Medical room: A hot spot in his left foot forced Jack Trengove to miss the trip to Darwin as he went straight into a moon boot. The club will take a cautious approach with their co-captain but remains hopeful he will be back running in January. Mitch Clark's progress of recovery from a Lisfranc injury is steady, and remains on track. He had staples removed before Christmas and will again step up his running in January. Chris Dawes has battled a calf issue since arriving while Max Gawn's return from a knee reconstruction remains on target.
What they say: "We're not going to shy away and pretend that we don't have a lot of work to do. We certainly do and we are really confident that the group we have got will, over time, deliver sustained success for the club." – coach Mark Neeld.
NAB Cup schedule:
Round one: v Richmond and North Melbourne, Etihad Stadium, Friday, February 22
Round two: v Port Adelaide, Renmark, Sunday, March 3
Round three: v St Kilda, Casey Fields, Saturday, March 9
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs