Kane Cornes is expected to play game 250 in 2013
It's been pretty specific to what the group's needed being so young
KANE Cornes makes no secret of the fact he loves pre-season training, even going so far as to label it his favourite time of the year.
With 245 games under his belt and embarking on his 14th season, the 30-year-old was happy for coach Ken Hinkley and high performance manager Darren Burgess to warn of a gruelling pre-season after their appointments late last year.
Under what's been a baking South Australian sun, Cornes says they have delivered on their promise.
Not surprisingly, he's loved it and, importantly, the veteran midfielder said the side had been training smart, not just hard – a subtle but significant distinction.
"I think pre-season's the best time of the year; there's no pressure on you to go out there and play well on the weekend, it's just about getting fit and strong and fast with your good mates," Cornes told AFL.com.au.
"This one hasn't been punishing for no reason, it's been pretty specific to what the group's needed being so young and how far we need to improve.
"Certainly there have been 10 out of 10 sessions, but it hasn’t been ridiculously tough for the sake of being tough."
Cornes said that given the age of Port's list – only seven players are aged 26 or older – workloads needed to be handled carefully, while at the same time readying the young players for what is one of the most testing seasons in professional sport.
"Not many of these guys have had five or six pre-seasons, for most it's their first, second or third, so it's been about toughening them up physically and also mentally," he said.
"We need to get the group into the position where we can perform consistently throughout the season, which we haven't been able to over the last few years."
As well as promising to work the squad hard, Burgess flagged a change in training philosophy when we re-joined the Power after spending time with the Socceroos and Liverpool FC.
He said players would train more intensely than they had in the past, but that training sessions would be shorter.
Cornes said the fitness guru's instructions had worked wonders at Alberton, even if they had been difficult to adjust to at first.
"It's been the attention to detail, the intensity and probably the lack of breaks in between drills that I've noticed most," he said.
"When one drill finishes, we're straight into the next one, while in the past we've done a drill and the coaches have dissected it and given us feedback … we tend to do the learning off the track now.
"It might sound like a little thing, but it takes it toll on the players, increasing the intensity and reducing the recovery – now the boys are used to it, they're loving it."
Club newbie Angus Monfries has been a standout performer as the NAB Cup approaches, Cornes said, predicting the former Bomber would add "a lot of hardness" to the squad as well as bolster its leadership capabilities – an area it was found wanting in last season.
Cornes also sung the praises of the Power's newest draftees.
"The best thing about our draft picks is that they're all really good endurance players and can all hit the footy really hard as well," he said.
Harry Thring is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_Harry.