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Saturday special: pre-season update

Drew Petrie (left) and Shaun Atley (right) in action during a North Melbourne Kangaroos training session at Aegis Park, Melbourne on December 9, 2013. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Drew Petrie and Shaun Atley in action at North Melbourne training this week

Adelaide

Fitness guru: Nick Poulos is in his second pre-season with the Crows after being appointed in October 2012.

Who's flying: Key defender Kyle Hartigan is cutting an imposing figure on the track, Mitch Grigg's supreme endurance is on show while fellow youngster Rory Atkins is looking much more comfortable in his second pre-season. Matthew Wright looks in terrific shape, as does Jarryd Lyons.

Injured warriors: Taylor Walker (knee) is looking good, but still hasn't progressed to making sharp turns, while Scott Thompson (hip) won't return to full training until January. Josh Jenkins (ankle) and Brent Reilly (shoulder) are still both on modified programs, but are progressing well and should be back in full training by the new year.

Summary: There is a look of steely determination on the face of Crows players this pre-season.  Indeed the club has much to atone for in 2014 after a disappointing showing this year and it appears the players are well aware. There has been far more running than last pre-season in preparation for 2014's interchange rotation cap. Consequently, players have slimmed down noticeably. - Harry Thring


Brisbane Lions

Fitness guru: Former Crow Brett Burton is in place for his fourth season with the Lions.

Who's flying: Dayne Zorko has taken a huge step forward with his endurance and is now one of the Lions' front-runners, but second-year forward Michael Close is still the man to catch.

Injured warriors: Jonathan Brown (foot) is on light duties, but shapes to be ready for the new season, while Daniel Merrett (ankle) will rejoin the main group after Christmas. Tom Rockliff is back running after a back complaint, while Jackson Paine (shoulder) and James Polkinghorne are slightly restricted at the moment.

Summary: After a horrible off-season marred by boardroom dramas and an exodus of young players, the Lions have knuckled down well under new coach Justin Leppitsch. Two weeks in Arizona was as good for bonding as it was for fitness, and since returning to Brisbane the Lions have trained hard in stifling conditions. - Michael Whiting

The availability of Jon Brown will be a bonus for the young Lions' team.  Picture: AFL Media



Carlton

Fitness guru:  David Buttifant will be reunited with Mick Malthouse when he joins the Blues for his first season after 13 at Collingwood.

Who's flying: A knee injury prevented skipper Marc Murphy from producing his brilliant best this year but he says he is up to three months ahead of where he was at the same time last pre-season. Young midfielder Tom Bell impressed the Blues by returning to training in superb shape.

Injured warriors: Prized recruit Dale Thomas (ankle) had a delayed start to the Blues' altitude training camp in Arizona and has been eased into his workload. Seventeen Blues underwent surgery in the off-season but none of them were major procedures.

Summary: Carlton's first-to-fourth-year players returned to training on November 18 while the rest completed a session on December 2 before leaving for Arizona the next day. They will return on December 19. Up to a dozen Blues have remained home for a variety of reasons, including ruckman Matthew Kreuzer and veterans Chris Judd and Andrew Carrazzo. - Ben Collins


Collingwood

Fitness guru: Bill Davoren will be running the show in his first season, taking over from David Buttifant who has rejoined Mick Malthouse at Carlton.

Who's flying: Luke Ball is back to his best, enjoying training after a few complications last year when returning from a knee injury. He looks strong and is leading from the front. Travis Cloke has added some muscle and has not missed a beat while recruit Taylor Adams is eating up the work, enjoying the combative elements of training. Nick Maxwell is not going to fade away and is working as hard as ever. 

Injured warriors: Alan Toovey will return from a knee reconstruction early next season and keeps meeting his targets, while Alex Fasolo is expected to be in contention for selection having recovered from his foot injury. Clinton Young played just two games with ankle and hamstring problems dogging him. He is being taken along gradually to have him right to go when the season starts. Dayne Beams had an awful start to 2013, a quad injury causing him to miss the first 15 rounds, but he has had a solid pre-season building upon the good form he showed late this season.

Summary: Following the departure of some of the team's permanent fixtures during the off-season, the question remains as to how quickly the Collingwood youngsters can have an impact on games. Until that happens the Magpies remain reliant on their dominant midfielders Scott Pendlebury, Dane Swan and Beams, key forward Cloke and key defender Ben Reid, and their support cast of quality role players. Of course, Brodie Grundy shapes as an exciting ruckman and Marley Williams a defender of rare quality. The squad is enjoying the organised approach to pre-season training and appears to be a list with plenty of upside. - Peter Ryan

Former Giant Taylor Adams has been throwing himself into the fray at Collingwood.  Picture: AFL Media




Essendon

Fitness guru: Justin Crow is set for his first season in charge.

Who's flying: The senior players who stayed in Melbourne and didn't venture overseas for the Colorado training camp – Jason Winderlich, Brent Stanton and Dustin Fletcher – are all enjoying injury-free pre-seasons and a strong start to their 2014 campaigns. Joe Daniher, too, has impressed on the track. 

Injured warriors: It's a pretty fit list at the moment for the Bombers. There were some concerns over Dyson Heppell's foot injury after surgery but he took part in plenty of activity in Colorado, while Michael Hurley is easing into things after surgical operations post-season on his wrist and ankle.

Summary: The group of 25 players who headed to the USA will re-join training at Tullamarine this week for a quick hit of pre-season work before the Christmas break. The younger players who didn't go overseas were last week put through an intense three-day camp at the True Value Solar Centre.  - Callum Twomey

Star Bomber Dyson Heppell in action during a recent pre-season training session Picture: Michael Willson


Fremantle

Fitness guru: Jason Weber, a mainstay of the Dockers setup is lining up for his seventh season as fitness coach.

Who's flying: Sam Menegola continues to set the standard in the time trials. Tendai Mzungu is running well, so too is Matt Taberner.

Injured warriors: Garrick Ibbotson and Clancee Pearce (both Achilles) have been working their way back to full fitness. Jonathon Griffin (ACL) and Kepler Bradley (ACL) are continuing their rehabilitation. Anthony Morabito (knee) continues to be monitored but has participated in the large majority of sessions. Can the Dockers finally get him on the park?

Summary: The Dockers have slogged away in the harsh Perth sun and will continue to do so after Christmas. - Alex Malcolm


Geelong

Fitness guru: Geelong's fitness department is now under the guidance of former Australian Institute of Sport physio Peter Stanton, who was last month appointed as the Cats' head of sport science and sports medicine.

Who's flying: Mark Blicavs has been dominating the time-trials, while Travis Varcoe has been up and about after two injury-plagued seasons. Tom Hawkins has also been moving well after struggling to overcome back soreness during the 2013 season.

Injured warriors: Daniel Menzel remains on the comeback trail after his fourth knee reconstruction. Menzel is aiming to start training with the main group in February. Corey Enright (knee), Dawson Simpson (knee), Jackson Thurlow (hip) and Shane Kersten (knee) have also started the pre-season in the rehab group. All of them should be fully fit by the time the NAB Challenge begins.

Summary: Having started their pre-Christmas training program at Simonds Stadium, the Cats headed to Coffs Harbour for a week-long camp on Thursday. They return to Geelong on December 20 and will head off for their Christmas break shortly after. - Adam McNicol

The Cats are confident Tom Hawkins will be back to his best for 2014.  Picture : AFL Media



Gold Coast

Fitness guru: Stephen Schwerdt is in place for his second season with the Suns.

Who's flying: Forward Jeremy Taylor has been the man to beat in most running sessions, closely pushed by Dion Prestia and Jaeger O'Meara. Rookie Kade Kolodjashnij is also right there, while gun first year Jack Martin has been another to impress.

Injured warriors: Zac Smith (knee reconstruction) is still a few months away, while Rory Thompson (hip), Tom Nicholls (knee), Charlie Dixon (ankle) and Luke Russell (hip) will all join the main group again after Christmas.

Summary: After two weeks in Arizona, the Suns have continued to push hard with their endurance work. A number of players have been restricted by niggles, but with the majority of the list now in their fourth season, they have been able to undertake a much greater workload than previous years. - Michael Whiting


Greater Western Sydney

Fitness guru: Head of sports science John Quinn has been heavily involved in the pre-season fitness standards, in conjunction with strength and conditioning coaches Nick Walsh and Lachie Wilmot. Quinn and Wilmot have been at the club for three years and Walsh for the past two.

Who's flying: Tom Bugg, Tim Golds, Toby Greene and Sam Frost have impressed the coaching staff and been heavily involved in the majority of training to date. A number of players beat the targets set for them in their 3km runs to commence the pre-season, which was taken out by Bugg, ahead of Adam Tomlinson, Greene and Golds.

Injured warriors: The Giants are enjoying a relatively clean bill of health at this stage of the pre-season. Jon Patton is still continuing his rehab from a knee reconstruction, while Callan Ward suffered a minor ankle sprain that isn't causing too many problems.

Summary: The club's young players have been hard at training since November 6 as they look to take a significant step forward in their third year in the AFL. The Giants' experienced recruits, including Shane Mumford and Heath Shaw, joined them two weeks later. GWS heads to Noosa on Monday for a week-long training camp before enjoying some time off during Christmas. - James Dampney

Jonathon Patton tussles with Chad Cornes on his comeback from a knee injury.  Picture: AFL Media





Hawthorn

Fitness guru: Andrew Russell is saddling up for his 10th season as Hawthorn's fitness coach. He joined the club in 2005 at the same time as Alastair Clarkson.

Who's flying: Isaac Smith is the pre-Christmas 2km time trial champion of Hawthorn once again after holding off draftee Billy Hartung in their much-hyped showdown last week. The times were slightly slower than last year because it was held on the grass at Box Hill rather than the running track at Waverley.

Injured warriors: Ryan Schoenmakers, Matt Suckling and Alex Woodward are on track to play in round one as they recover from their ACL injuries from last year. The first two appear ready made replacements for the departed Lance Franklin and the retired Brent Guerra. Brendan Whitecross won't play until later in the year as he recovers from his ACL tear in the preliminary final.

Summary: The Hawks are currently at a training camp in South Africa. While there are cultural and team bonding elements involved, the main reason for the camp remains the same. "They're going to be smashed," said one official. Given their late start to pre-season because of the premiership win, the Hawks are cramming as much training as they can into the time allowed. However they shape to be underdone for the start of the NAB Challenge.  - Ashley Browne


Melbourne

Fitness guru: Dave Mission is set for his third season as fitness coach.

Who's flying: Jack Trengove and Jimmy Toumpas have been the standouts on the track so far, while Bernie Vince and Daniel Cross have made positive impressions in their first pre-seasons with the Demons. As usual, aerobic star Daniel Nicholson has dominated the running sessions.

Injured warriors: Chris Dawes is yet to return to full training after knee surgery in October. Mitch Clark, who has set his sights on a NAB Challenge return, is still having his training program managed. Dom Tyson has been nursed through the early parts of pre-season and Tom McDonald is back in training following shoulder surgery.

Summary: The players have had a strong opening to pre-season training under Paul Roos. As opposed to last year, Melbourne has concentrated on more skills-based training and incorporating running sessions into football specific sessions. Last week, the players attended a camp in Sorrento, where, among other things, Roos' game plan was introduced, along with sessions with Leading Teams where the players made a point on building relationships and discussing leadership styles.  - Ben Guthrie

Bernie Vince has settled well after moving to Melbourne.  Picture: AFL Media







North Melbourne

Fitness guru:  High performance and training services director Steve Saunders has been at North since late 2010 and works closely with nutrition and coaching coach Jona Segal and strength and conditioning coach Dan Meehan.

Who's flying: Jack Ziebell has lost 6kg as he continues to improve his aerobic fitness, Ben Cunnington's added bulk and strength has stood out in contested drills and Ben Jacobs is benefitting from starting pre-season training on time for the first time in his career.

Injured warriors: Andrew Swallow (Achilles) is hopeful of resuming running in January but North won't rush his rehabilitation. Majak Daw (knee) has been running but is not expected to resume full training until January, while Tom Curran (foot) is hoping to start running by February. Leigh Adams (knee and shoulder), Liam Anthony (shoulder), Kieran Harper (ankle), Cameron Delaney (toe), Aaron Mullett (toe), Scott Thompson (knee) and Mason Wood (knee) have been on modified programs.

Summary: North players returned from three weeks in Utah last weekend. This year's camp was the Roos' fourth in the south-western US state and like the 2013 visit had a heavy skills focus. The Roos will continue to incorporate a lot of their conditioning work into skills sessions, rather than straight running sessions. Improved defence is also a big focus, with new assistant coach Leigh Tudor and tackling coach John Donehue expected to have significant input here. - Nick Bowen


Port Adelaide

Fitness guru: This is Darren Burgess' second pre-season since returning to the club.

Who's flying: Skipper Travis Boak is looking ready to back up his sensational 2013 season, while Robbie Gray has made further progress as he looks to return to his absolute best after his 2012 knee reconstruction. The speed of Irish rookie Daniel Flynn has been exceptional, Matt White has settled in well to his new surroundings and veteran Dom Cassisi isn't missing a beat.

Injured warriors: Jarrad Redden (hip, groin, shoulder) is making slow but steady progress form several surgeries, Jack Hombsch (hip) and Brent Renouf (knee) also skipped the training camp as they recover from surgery.

Summary: The Power returned from a training camp in Dubai last Wednesday and Kane Cornes said he hadn’t ever trained as intensely as he had in the Middle East. Players and coaches know 2014 will be more difficult than this season, as the club makes the transition from hunter to hunted. The number of players out through injury is dramatically less than it was this time last year and the quality of training reflects that. - Harry Thring

The entire Port Adelaide list is working to maintain the advances of 2013.  Picture: AFL Media 




Richmond

Fitness guru: Peter Burge is in place for his second season as fitness coach.

Who's flying: Brandon Ellis has consistently led the hard-running drills, while Daniel Jackson, Steven Morris, Ricky Petterd and Alex Rance have impressed. Of the new recruits, Ben Lennon has turned heads immediately with his crisp skills.

Injured warriors: Chris Knights is being managed back from a serious knee injury, slowly working his way into the main training group. The 27-year-old, who tore his right patella tendon, is running and aiming to be available for round one. Midfielder Reece Conca is also on track for a round one return after undergoing hamstring surgery. He has been on light duties through November and December and should join full training in January.

Summary: The Tigers have opted to stay in Melbourne and train at their Punt Road base, with the pre-Christmas phase "more fitness based, with an individual skills focus", according to Burge. There has been a heavy emphasis on conditioning, with the program designed to get progressively tougher as the weeks progress. The summer has even included a visit from 15-time Australia’s Strongest Man winner, Derek Boyer.  - Nathan Schmook

Ben Lennon has impressed early at Tigerland, catching the captain's eye at training.  Picture: AFL Media

St Kilda

Fitness guru: Adam Basil has been the Saints' high performance manager since October, 2013.

Who's flying: The reigning best and fairest Jack Steven has reportedly impressed in Colorado, with visiting Melbourne Storm centre Will Chambers noticing Steven's hard training. Josh Saunders and Sam Gilbert were strong performers on a 32km hike, while Jack Newnes and Tom Curren upheld their reputations as hard-working individuals throughout the freezing walk/run.

Injured warriors: The Saints' prized recent No.3 draft pick Jack Billings is out of full training until after Christmas following a quad injury in Colorado. Nathan Wright will be with him after missing the trip because of shin soreness detected three days before departure. James Gwilt (knee), Tom Simpkin (leg), Rhys Stanley (collarbone) and Dylan Roberton (ankle) also missed the trip as they continue to work through modified programs. Daniel Markworth is doing everything 12 months on from his knee reconstruction. No player appears in doubt for round one at this stage.

Summary: The players returned from their altitude training camp in Boulder, Colorado recently after two-and-a-half weeks of hard running, tough hikes that were mentally and physically challenging with the temperate dropping below zero, and plenty of skills work in the Bubble facility at Colorado University. It was their second trip to altitude after last year's initial foray and first under new coach Alan Richardson, who was installed in November. - Jennifer Phelan


Sydney Swans

Fitness guru: Rob Spurrs is the Swans' elite performance coach and is heading into his 10th year at the club.

Who's flying: A number of the Swans' younger players have stood out so far during the pre-season, led by 2013 rookie of the year Dane Rampe. Brandon Jack and rookies Dan Robinson and Lloyd Perris have also returned from the break in good shape. The senior players had a longer break, with Dan Hannebery taking out the club's first official 3km time trial ahead of Craig Bird, Perris and Ben McGlynn. Lance Franklin finished in the middle of the pack in his first official hitout with the club, just behind noted runner and fellow key position player Ted Richards, to impress the coaching staff.

Injured warriors: A number of Swans will be on restricted programs heading into the new year, including Adam Goodes, Lewis Roberts-Thomson and Mike Pyke, who are all carrying knee issues. They have started running and it is planned to have them moving onto ball work next month. Gary Rohan is also making good progress as he continues building his strength. Alex Johnson and Rhyce Shaw, who both had LARS surgeries on their knees late in 2013, have also begun running programs. Two players still a little behind in their rehabs are Tom Mitchell and Tommy Walsh. Mitchell, recovering from ankle surgery, will start running over Christmas and take part in skills work in late January, while Walsh is still in the process of getting strength back into his ruptured hamstring. Finally Sam Reid was given an extended break to help recover from a persistent quad injury and should also be back in full training next month.

Summary: The Swans' veterans enjoyed a 10-week break after another arduous campaign, but all players are now back at the club and preparing for 2014. The players will still have personal programs during the Christmas break before returning in early January. The Swans then head to Coffs Harbour at the end of that month to round off preparations before the NAB Cup commences.

A fully fit Gary Rohan would be a Christmas present to make Swans fans happy.  Picture: AFL Media



West Coast

Fitness guru: Warren Kofoed will be the fitness boss for the Eagles for a sixth year.

Who's flying: Brant Colledge, Murray Newman, Fraser McInnes, Adam Carter and Brad Sheppard have all been impressive on the track this pre-season.

Injured warriors: Nic Naitanui (groins) and Beau Waters (shoulder) are on managed programs but for the most part the Eagles are injury free.

Summary: The Eagles spent three days in Broome for a training camp at the end of November but aside from that training has been held in Perth in warm conditions. - Alex Malcolm


Western Bulldogs

Fitness guru: Justin Cordy has returned to the Western Bulldogs after six years at Carlton and two at Cricket Australia.

Who's flying: Lachie Hunter is tearing up the track, while Stewart Crameri, Tom Liberatore and Koby Stevens are also front-runners. Defender Tom Young is the big improver this year.

Injured warriors: The rehab group is shrinking, but Clay Smith (knee), Christian Howard (hip) and Shaun Higgins (foot) remain on light duties. They will be monitored closely this pre-season.

Summary: Twelve key position players travelled overseas for a high-altitude training camp in Colorado, and have returned fit and firing. The rest of the group trained at Whitten Oval during that time. The entire team is now training together, ready for a big summer.  - Jacqui Reed

After a much-anticipated move to the Dogs Stewart Crameri is keen to impress.  Picture: AFL Media