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Who's burning up the training track?

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 12:  Dustin Martin of the Tigers kicks the ball during the Richmond Tigers AFL intra-club match at Punt Road Oval on February 12, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images/AFL Media)
Dustin Martin put a turbulent off-season behind him to star in the Tigers' intra-club match this week

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Fitter and heavier than last year, Charlie Cameron looked set to emerge as one of the more dangerous small forwards in the AFL this season until he was ruled out for a month on Friday with knee surgery. Forwards coach David Teague has highlighted the efforts of small defender Luke Brown this pre-season, who returned from his Christmas break in brilliant condition as he looks to find his best in 2016. Harry Dear is another whose training has indicated he could play an important role for the side's depth of key forwards. Teague said Dear's kicking had improved since last year and that his strength and running ability was elite. - Harry Thring

Charlie Cameron escapes Dean Gore's clutches at Adelaide training this week. Picture: AFL Media


Harris Andrews is noticeably stronger entering his second season. At 19, the young key defender was a standout last year and looks to have improved ahead of 2016. He's still a way off reaching his ideal playing weight, but the extra strength in his upper body should pay off in one-on-one marking contests against more seasoned players. Recruits Tom Bell and Ryan Bastinac have impressed with their professionalism and led most of the running sessions. A couple of draftees have also turned heads. Ben Keays is right alongside Bell and Bastinac, while Rhys Mathieson has impressed with his bull-at-a-gate style in any contested training. No.2 draft pick Josh Schache has not missed a beat and given his housemate Daniel Merrett a few headaches in match simulation to date. - Michael Whiting 

Andrejs Everitt, Carlton’s leading goalkicker last season, has taken his running game to another level over the pre-season. “This year I’m running as well as I have, I’m as strong as I’ve been,” he told Kade Simpson, 31, is running personal best times and says he has enjoyed his best pre-season since his mid-20s. The defender, who will be out of contract at season’s end, says he is in the best shape he has been for four or five years and has barely missed a training session. Dylan Buckley appears to have put on size in the gym without sacrificing his pace. The club’s five draftees, Jacob Weitering, Harry McKay, Charlie Curnow, David Cuningham and Jack Silvagni, have been impressive on the track and Marc Murphy is close to full fitness after having surgery on his troublesome left shoulder. - Howard Kotton

Fresh from producing a breakout 2015, hard-nosed midfielder Taylor Adams is primed to take his game to a new level in his third season as a Magpie. The former Giant, 22, has impressed all at the club with his hunger to succeed and willingness to help and instruct teammates – an approach that has been rewarded with elevation to the Pies' leadership group. "He's a real thinker of the game and says it how it is if blokes are out of position, or if he thinks that they've done the right thing," fellow leader Steele Sidebottom told the club's website. Another newcomer to leadership ranks, Brent Macaffer, hasn't missed a beat since returning to the VFL late last season after overcoming a second knee reconstruction and is in line to return to a predominantly defensive forward role. Injury-plagued swingman Ben Reid excited Pies fans this week by revealing he would be ready to play a game now, while ex-Lion James Aish has found a new gear in his first pre-season with the Pies while shadowing skipper Scott Pendlebury. - Ben Collins

Coming off an underwhelming campaign blighted by injuries, David Zaharakis took it upon himself to get to an altitude training camp during the off-season, setting the midfielder up for a standout summer. Zaharakis spent two weeks in Boulder, Colorado and Bombers high performance manager Justin Crow said the results have been obvious, with the soon-to-be 26-year-old winning a club triathlon on Saturday: "He's running personal best 2km time trials, he's had an excellent pre-season. He's been flying ever since (going to Boulder)". Young spearhead Joe Daniher has significantly bulked up his slender frame, adding four kilos and getting much stronger in the gym to match it against some of the League's biggest defenders. Third-year players Zach Merrett and speedster Orazio Fantasia are set to shoulder more responsibility after doping suspensions to 12 senior players and both are in top shape after feeling the benefits of full pre-seasons. - Travis King

A refreshed David Zaharakis knows the Dons need a big year from him. Picture: AFL Media 

Connor Blakely, Lachie Weller and Ed Langdon have all impressed in their second pre-seasons. Coach Ross Lyon has been pleased with the progression of all three youngsters. Blakely and Weller have added two kilos to their frames and have worked closely with midfield coaches Marc Webb and Anthony Rock to improve their strength in contested situations. Both are looking to be flexible as midfielders who can push forward at times. First-year key defender Sam Collins has also stood out on the track. The mature-aged recruit from Box Hill appears ready to play at AFL level straight away. Michael Walters was full of praise for Collins. "He's a strong defender," Walters said. "I've played on him a couple of times, he's a big man and he made me feel like a little kid at times. He's one player that's been really impressive." – Alex Malcolm

George Horlin-Smith and Michael Luxford have been the standouts on the track for the Cats this pre-season. The duo have taken their running power to a new level, desperate for an opportunity in what shapes as a tough assignment for midfield minutes. Second-year youngster Nakia Cockatoo has been training as an onballer and has made great strides, thanks largely to advice from star recruit Patrick Dangerfield. The former Crow himself has not missed a beat since arriving at the Cattery, with coach Chris Scott quick to sing his praises: "Patrick has not missed a session, is the ultimate professional and is a phenomenal athlete." Former Blue Lachie Henderson has also impressed in a key defensive post. After returning to full training following his recovery from foot surgery, Rhys Stanley has also been in good touch. The ruckman recently posted a personal best result in the bench press in the gym. – Ben Guthrie 

A mix of old and new have shone for the Suns so far, with small defender Sean Lemmens particularly impressive. Lightly built, Lemmens is stronger right through his body and much more difficult to push off the ball in contested situations. Second year housemates Touk Miller, whose thirst for work is hard to top, and Peter Wright, have been standouts. Wright is noticeably stronger and already keeping his feet better than his first year. Captain Gary Ablett has done a power of training and shown no side effects from the knee and shoulder injuries that curtailed his 2015, while Nick Malceski has been uninterrupted and looks like a new recruit after carrying a knee problem for much of last year. Draftee Josh Schoenfeld has not only been a sensation in the running, but also added 6kg to his light frame. - Michael Whiting 

Kade Kolodjashnij and Touk Miller pull no punches at Suns training. Picture: AFL Media


Versatile big man Adam Tomlinson has put a disappointing 2015 season behind and been a star during the Giants' pre-season campaign. Injury and a wealth of key position players at GWS meant that the 22 year-old only managed eight games last year, but he's an immense physical specimen and blitzed the club's recent 3km time trials. With serious doubt on Cam McCarthy's return to the club, Tomlinson will have his eye on a spot inside 50 for the Giants this season, where his aerobic capacity and work ethic could make him a perfect lead-up option to complement Jeremy Cameron and Jon Patton. Dylan Shiel, Shane Mumford and Tom Scully have all overcome serious injuries and are in great shape, while young draftees Jacob Hopper and Matthew Flynn have impressed everyone at GWS in their first pre-season. - Adam Curley 

With at least four spots from last year's premiership team up for grabs, the track burners at Hawthorn have much to aim for. Spring-heeled medium forward James Sicily has enjoyed an excellent summer and kicked five goals in an intra-club hit-out on Wednesday. Midfielder Jonathan O'Rourke also impressed, reaping the benefit of his second pre-season in the Hawthorn system. Pacy wingman Zac Webster injured his hamstring four times last season but a Cyril Rioli type training regimen this summer, has resulted in a marked improvement at training and he should feature in the NAB Challenge. Look for Kurt Heatherley to get a run next week against Carlton as the Hawks look for a key defender to replace the retired Brian Lake. Of the established Hawks, Ben Stratton, Billy Hartung, Isaac Smith and Grant Birchall all appear in really good nick. - Ashley Browne

There's been plenty of noise about Kurt Heatherley coming out of Hawthorn. Picture: AFL Media

Ruckman Max Gawn declared at the end of last year he wanted to get super fit this pre-season after North Melbourne's Todd Goldstein provided him with a wake-up call as to the fitness required in the round 19 clash last year. And Gawn has delivered on the promise, putting in a full pre-season and being the club's best-performed player on the training camp in Maroochydore. Dean Kent has been excellent after an injury interrupted 2015, while Jack Viney has been a terrier as usual. Entering the final year of his contract, Dean Terlich has lost weight and recorded a personal best in the three-kilometre time trial to give himself the best chance of performing well, while Jayden Hunt is progressing nicely. – Peter Ryan

Shaun Higgins has carried the momentum of his outstanding debut season at Arden Street into the 2016 pre-season. The former Western Bulldog has stood out in game simulation drills all summer where club insiders say he has often looked like he has the ball on a string. Higgins has also impressed with his gut running in match practice and repeat sprints, while he has been one of the most vocal Roos on the training track. His hard work has been recognised by his teammates who voted him into North's 2016 leadership group. Midfielder Ben Cunnington has also looked sharp in match practice recently, while second-year rookie Will Fordham has stepped up as a serious challenger to the club's previously unrivalled endurance king, Sam Gibson. – Nick Bowen 

No one could point the finger at Shaun Higgins for slacking off this pre-season. Picture: AFL Media


Highlighting his growing maturity, Jake Neade returned to training after Christmas in stunning shape. He ran hard and fast and his intensity at training has reached new heights in 2016. Even without the obvious room for increased game time with Angus Monfries' suspension, Neade now looks a player determined to reach his potential. Port's director of coaching Shaun Hart said it wasn't just his running that had impressed the coaching staff, but "his ability to impact the match play we've been having". "He's ready to go," Hart said, adding that Neade was in as good a shape as he'd seen. Hart also praised small defender Jarman Impey as well as Tom Jonas who, after being given a few weeks to freshen up last season, has proven a standout leader at Alberton since the first day of pre-season. Hart predicted Jonas would put together an influential season in 2016. - Harry Thring 

Connor Menadue has added the weight he needed to take a big step in his second season, and coach Damien Hardwick has a specific role mapped out for the 19-year-old on a wing. It is hoped Menadue, who has also played half-back in match drills, can eventually be the Isaac Smith of Richmond's midfield, using his running power to win the ball in dangerous spots. "Connor is looking physically stronger," football manager Dan Richardson told "His speed is exciting and he makes good decisions with ball in hand. We look forward to seeing how his solid pre-season translates into the NAB Challenge." In the key posts, defender David Astbury has been training with confidence and marking strongly in match simulation. He's worked well in partnership with mature-age recruit Nathan Broad, who will get chances in the NAB Challenge after a consistently strong summer. Dustin Martin was the star in the Tigers' main intra-club hit-out. - Nathan Schmook 

David Astbury (left) feels the wrath of Ty Vickery at Punt Road Oval this week. Picture: AFL Media


Jack Billings has had a managed pre-season but is coming good at the right time, according to football manager Jamie Cox. The 20-year-old suffered a stress fracture in his shin in 2015 and only played nine games. Seb Ross is another young midfielder who looked set for a big 2015 after performing strongly in last year’s pre-season before having surgery on a torn hamstring and only playing 10 games. He is another who has looked good on the track and will hope to establish himself in the Saints’ best 22. With Jake Carlisle out suspended for the season, experienced defenders Sam Fisher and Sean Dempster are set to fill his role. Luke Delaney is another option to replace Carlisle. After a strong 2014 when he finished fifth in the best-and-fairest, Delaney’s form tailed off last year and he will be looking to bounce back. - Dinny Navaratnam

Dane Rampe has been a pre-season machine since he arrived at the Swans and his running power could be put on show further up the ground in 2016. The defender has often pushed himself to the point of exhaustion during training sessions and has played through the midfield at times during match simulation drills. Rampe has a penetrating left foot that has been a key weapon for the Swans off half back, but he's the perfect size for an onballer and could add to the club's already stacked midfield division. If fringe players Dean Towers, Brandon Jack, Dan Robinson and James Rose can take their track form into games then they could become regulars, while highly regarded academy product Callum Mills has stepped straight into the Swans' system with ease. - Adam Curley

Star recruit Lewis Jetta has shone in his first pre-season at West Coast. The former Sydney Swan has not missed a session and the Eagles players and coaching staff have been very impressed by his running ability and sublime kicking skills. Adam Simpson believes Jetta will give the Eagles a lot of flexibility with his ability play either at half-back, half-forward or on the wing. Key defenders Eric Mackenzie and Mitch Brown are both in sensational physical condition after both players missed all of last season due to knee reconstructions. The Eagles' first-year recruits have all trained very well but Luke Partington is one to watch. The young midfielder has slotted into AFL life seamlessly and the Eagles have already extended his contract on the back of his work across the pre-season. – Alex Malcolm 

Lewis Jetta has put a smile on his new coach's face since moving from the Swans. Picture: AFL Media


With the Bulldogs' ruck position a revolving door in 2015, sixth-year big man Tom Campbell's efforts over pre-season have him primed to make the position his own. He's been so impressive, Bulldogs ruck coach Steven King believes a breakout year is on the cards for the Sandringham Dragons product. “Whether it’s running, all the skill work, his GPS data has been fantastic all the way through, you can just tell he’s really hungry," King told the club's website. Second-year midfielder Bailey Dale has bulked up by adding eight kilos to his once slender frame. The 19-year-old has also improved his endurance, which will complement his elite kicking skills and decision making. And classy playmaker Tom Liberatore looms as a massive inclusion to Luke Beveridge's side after missing last season with a torn ACL. The 23-year-old's flawless pre-season sees him primed for his first game since last year's NAB Challenge. – Ryan Davidson

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs