Colin Garland says the Demons have taken big strides with their fitness since last pre-season
When Neeldy came on board with Craigy (Neil Craig) and David Misson from St Kilda, we got to see their running results compared to ours straight away and to be honest it was quite embarrassing
MELBOURNE backman Colin Garland has admitted the Demons' fitness levels were "embarrassing" as recently as last year.
Garland said the club had benefitted from a second pre-season under Mark Neeld, Neil Craig and fitness boss David Misson after an eye-opening summer last year.
The versatile defender said during last year's pre-season, it quickly became apparent the club lagged behind the AFL's stronger teams in terms of fitness.
"The main non-negotiable we struggled with last year was preparing as an AFL footballer," he said.
"When Neeldy came on board with Craigy (Neil Craig) and David Misson from St Kilda, we got to see their running results compared to ours straight away and to be honest it was quite embarrassing.
"From that aspect we had a lot of catching up to do from day dot.
"The first pre-season we did under Mark was probably the toughest I’ve ever done, just the change in training standards.
"This pre-season it’s been really good, blokes have come back pretty much level as we finished on last pre-season. (It’s been) nowhere near as tough mentally or physically."
Melbourne plays Port Adelaide in round one on March 31, and Garland, 24, said he was excited about the new talent being infused into the club.
The Demons recruited five established AFL players in last year’s trade and free agency period and drafted a further five new players onto their senior list.
Garland, who played all 22 matches last year, expects the Demons to blood up to eight fresh faces for its clash with the Power.
"We spoke about it today, no team’s ever won with four or more on debut," Garland said.
"We’re not too sure at the moment but I’d envisage maybe six to eight new players at the club would play round one.
"From an outside perspective it sort of looks like a scattergun approach but from my angle, the club’s been extremely smart with the players they’ve targeted in the off-season and all of those guys fill roles we needed to fit into our team.
"I think you’ll probably see six to eight new faces in round one, which will be pretty exciting for not only our supporters but the whole competition. It’s going to be a real positive.
"Fans can look forward to someone like Matt Jones ... and Dean Terlich, another mature-aged guy. I think those guys will come in and have an impact straight away."
Meanwhile, the Demons on Wednesday announced a new sponsorship deal with Tourism NT in a move that could result in Melbourne playing two annual home games in the Top End.
Melbourne has played one home game in Darwin in the past three years and could double that number at the end of the season, something chief executive Cameron Schwab said the club was considering.
Schwab said the sponsorship was the start of a long-term relationship.
"The Territory loves footy, and it makes sense to partner with the League’s foundation club to create opportunities," Schwab said.
"This is a tremendous vote of confidence for the Melbourne Football Club, and highlights our approach of building strategic relationships that involve the whole club.
"We hope, both through this partnership and our ongoing community work, coupled with games in Darwin, that we become the Territory’s AFL club."