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How your club's experienced hands are travelling

Brendon Goddard isn't going quietly into the sunset - AFL,Adelaide Crows,Brisbane Lions,Carlton Blues,Collingwood Magpies,Essendon Bombers,Fremantle Dockers,Geelong Cats,Gold Coast Suns,GWS Giants,Hawthorn Hawks,Melbourne Demons,North Melbourne Kangaroos,Port Adelaide Power,Richmond Tigers,St Kilda Saints,Sydney Swans,West Coast Eagles,Western Bulldogs
Brendon Goddard isn't going quietly into the sunset

THE oldest player on the Crows list has hit the ground running in his first pre-season at West Lakes. Winger Sam Gibson, who turns 32 in May, blitzed the field to win both of the club's 2km time trials. Gibson was known for his durability during his time at North Melbourne, playing 130 consecutive games before being delisted at the end of last season. He should find himself around the mark to feature in round one. All Australian small forward Eddie Betts, 32 in November, has quickly got back to work during his 14th pre-season. Betts is 23 games away from joining the 300 club. Midfielder Richard Douglas, 31 in February, is coming off an impressive season. Ruckman Sam Jacobs, 30 in April, is one of the game's premier big men. Utility David Mackay, 30 in July, could face pressure to retain his spot in the side with several youngsters pushing their claims. 

With the youngest list in the competition, there are few elder statesmen to keep an eye on at the Lions. Luke Hodge has fitted in seamlessly since heading north from Hawthorn, and after starting his pre-season with a modified program, was quickly into full swing. The 33-year-old takes part in everything and his strong voice – not just in his defensive role, but in educating players all over the ground – has been noticeable. Hodge is doing everything possible to integrate, even driving draftees Cam Rayner and Toby Wooller to training in their first month. Ruckman Stefan Martin might have a battle on his hands from Archie Smith to keep the number one ruck role, but the 31-year-old shows no signs of slowing down. Still the strongest player at the club, Martin is noticeably leaner and has been getting around the ground strongly at training. He is in great shape and will start the season in the centre square. - Michael Whiting 

While Carlton is basing its 'reset' on attracting talented youngsters to its ranks, the reliance on the remaining experienced core remains critical, at least in the short term. Marc Murphy, coming off winning his second John Nicholls Medal, is showing no signs of slowing down as he approaches his 13th AFL season. Murphy, who became a father for the first time last week, is thriving. Kade Simpson, preparing for his 16th season, is working as hard as ever and Matthew Kreuzer, after having a career-best season in 2017, is cutting a fine figure on the track. Dale 'Daisy' Thomas is showing great enthusiasm and helping drive improvement in the club's younger brigade, while Sam Rowe is making solid progress as he recovers from a torn ACL sustained last season. But the Blues are not pushing the key defender too hard as he seeks to return as soon as possible. Ed Curnow is moving well as he recovers from complications with a bruised larynx that ended his 2017 campaign, while rookie Alex Silvagni was spotted running laps at training this week. - Howard Kotton

Daisy Thomas is suiting up for what will surely be his final season. Picture: AFL Photos

There was plenty made of the experienced players the Magpies brought through the door last pre-season, but Daniel Wells and Chris Mayne failed to make the impact the club had hoped for. Wells' body broke down on him last year, limiting the 32-year-old to just 10 senior appearances. Still, when he was able to get out on the park the midfielder's impact was substantial. Positively, Wells, who has two years remaining on his initial lucrative three-year deal, has had a much better preparation leading into 2018 with the Magpies excited by what he may be able to produce. The length of Mayne's contract (he signed a four-year, $2 million deal as a free agent) will remain a point of contention and he faces a tough task of breaking into the senior side. Lynden Dunn was brought in as insurance with the veteran defender playing 17 games last year. He is a solid back-up option for coach Nathan Buckley and has been added to the club's leadership group. Travis Varcoe is set to make a positional switch to the forward line, while skipper Scott Pendlebury had a second bout of surgery on his finger in November but has not had any further issues and has trained solidly after the Christmas break. – Ben Guthrie

The Bombers may have tipped their hand on their AFLX intentions, with veteran stars Brendon Goddard and Cale Hooker among those not to compete in the intraclub trial on Wednesday. Goddard, who has managed his training loads throughout the pre-season, has already indicated he will not take part in the AFLX tournament leading into the season proper. Hooker completed marking and forward-related drills with Joe Daniher this week as the one-time defender prepares to remain in attack in 2018. Matthew Leuenberger had post-season shoulder surgery in September, but has progressed to competitive contact drills and some match play. The ruckman is set to graduate to the main training group soon. Mark Baguley is more lightly played than most 30-year-olds in the AFL, after not playing the first of his 104 games until 2012. The former Frankston VFL footballer is a renowned hard worker and has looked good again this pre-season. - Marc McGowan 

Coming off a year severely hampered by hamstring setbacks, goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne has turned to pilates to improve his flexibility and core strength, and has looked hungry to recapture his best during his 10th pre-season. Former skipper David Mundy avoided post-season surgery for the first time in several years and the 32-year-old seems in excellent condition ahead of his 14th campaign, while ruckman Aaron Sandilands, 35, is back covering the ground in trademark fashion at training after hamstring issues limited him to 10 games last season. With 10 draftees arriving at the club this off-season, leaders Michael Johnson and Lee Spurr, now 33 and 30 years old respectively, have had important roles to play setting standards and appear to be in good physical condition, while 31-year-old Danyle Pearce has been noticeable for his voice at training. – Travis King

Veterans David Mundy and Danyle Pearce come to grips with each other at training. Picture: AFL Photos

When you recruit a 33-year-old who has played just 34 matches in his past three seasons, there are generally a few raised eyebrows. But Gary Ablett isn't any ordinary 33-year-old – he happens to be a club legend and one of the greatest players of all time. Ablett started training with his new teammates more than a week before he was officially due back and has had good continuity on the training track. Teammates have often remarked at his brilliance, with superstar Cat Patrick Dangerfield in awe of how Ablett was able to keep his feet (while wearing runners) during a training session in heavy rain recently. After being shifted up forward in 2017, Harry Taylor will return to his customary position in defence following the retirement of Tom Lonergan. Taylor has said he feels more at home in defence and, although he has been managed through some sessions across the pre-season, the 31-year-old shapes as an integral part of the Cats' backline in 2018. Skipper Joel Selwood, who turns 30 in May, was eased into training after his participation in the International Rules Series in November. The effects of the syndesmosis ankle injury he suffered late last season were also factored into his preparation. – Ben Guthrie 

The Suns have a reputation as a young team – which they are – but even with Gary Ablett's departure, they have a number of older heads to lean on. Michael Barlow has been fantastic so far after recovering from a broken leg he sustained in round 15 last season. The 30-year-old has finished in the top two in each of the club's time trials and again looks in great shape. Michael Rischitelli (32) signed on for another year and hasn't missed a beat, while his good mate Matt Rosa (31) has also completed all the training to date. Both players are on the fringe of the Suns' best 22 and will need to impress in the trials and JLT fixtures to nail a spot down. Pearce Hanley (29) had a hiccup with a broken hand sustained in the Virgin Australia International Rules Series, but is now back into full contact training, while Jarrod Harbrow (29) has been his energetic self around the group. - Michael Whiting

After battling multiple injuries last year, both Brett Deledio (calf/Achilles) and Ryan Griffen (ankle) remain on modified training programs at the Giants, with both spending plenty of time in the gym, pool, and running on the 'AlterG' treadmill. GWS has been more cautious with Deledio, who has done most of his work off the track, while Griffen is doing two main sessions per week and is ready to play AFLX and in the JLT Community Series if called upon. Star backman Heath Shaw was also given a light workload pre-Christmas to keep him fresh and has been working with the Giants' AFLW side in a mentoring role, but both he and key defender Tim Mohr look to be in fantastic shape. - Adam Curley  

All eyes are on four-time premiership stars Cyril Rioli and Grant Birchall. Rioli returned last week from compassionate leave in the Northern Territory after his father had a heart attack in Grand Final week. The star forward is reportedly in good condition, having completed a program while away. Birchall underwent another arthroscope pre-Christmas on his right knee, which required a PCL reconstruction in August. The defender hopes to be running by the end of January and will hope the soreness doesn't return. Ben McEvoy had a hamstring setback late last year and is easing his way back into training, while captain Jarryd Roughead has made a swift recovery from minor left knee surgery in mid-December. James Frawley has put the turf toe injury that ruined his 2017 season behind him, while Isaac Smith's dual time trial wins say enough about how he is going. Shaun Burgoyne barely had a break after representing Australia in the International Rules Series and continues to defy his advanced age. Paul Puopolo and Ricky Henderson have enjoyed uninterrupted pre-seasons. - Marc McGowan 

The brilliant career of Cyril Rioli is moving into its latter stages. Picture: AFL Photos

Co-captain Nathan Jones has had an interrupted build up this pre-season with a calf niggle prior to Christmas taking him out of main training for a few weeks. The calf complaint was only minor and he returned to full training in December. However, the midfielder was placed back in rehab after some back spasms that flared in recent weeks. Reassuringly for Demons fans, Jones told AFL.com.au earlier this week that he would be back in full training for the start of the club's pre-season training camp to Maroochydore on Monday. Jordan Lewis, 31, has been training with the defenders this pre-season after the Demons identified that his leadership and experience could be utilised in a young backline. Lewis, who finished equal-third in last year's best and fairest, has managed himself smartly over the pre-season and still looks classy in match simulation, as does Bernie Vince who has also been training as a defender. Vince appears to be in good nick and his skills in match practice have been top notch. With plenty of depth across the half-back line, it will be interesting to see how the Demons use Vince, 32, the oldest player on their list, this season. – Ben Guthrie

The Roos have only four players aged 29 or older after a significant cleanout the past two off-seasons. The quartet – reigning club champion Shaun Higgins, Todd Goldstein, Scott Thompson and Jarrad Waite – took part in North's AFLX trial last week. Thompson and Waite had to wait until mid-October to score new one-year deals, but comfortably remain best-22 options. Waite has not lost his spring on the evidence of his big mark in one of the AFLX games, and his running has been typically strong. Thompson, like Waite, hasn't missed a beat. Higgins has arguably never been in better shape after ridding himself of the injury woes that plagued him at the Western Bulldogs. Goldstein, who is contracted for another two seasons, is the most under the pump after a difficult 2017, but has been one of the pre-season standouts. The 2015 All Australian sat out the Kangaroos' pre-Christmas intraclub match, but has otherwise been a constant. - Marc McGowan

Shaun Higgins and Todd Goldstein are two of North's few remaining old-timers. Picture: AFL Photos

The Power will have three players 30 years or older once the 2018 season gets underway. Justin Westhoff, who turns 32 in October, is the ultimate utility, able to play on the wing, drop back into the defence, push forward and take a grab, or pinch-hit in the ruck. Lindsay Thomas, who turns 30 at the end of February, faces a challenge to force his way into the Power's best 22 having joined the club from North Melbourne through the rookie draft. Ruckman Paddy Ryder, 30 in March, is coming off a career-best season where he earned All Australian honours and won the Power's best and fairest. Clever forward Robbie Gray, 30 in March, is back into full training after having chemotherapy for testicular cancer in October. Skipper Travis Boak, 30 in August, had a minor hand injury at the start of pre-season training at the end of 2017, but is back into full training. 

Ruckman Shaun Hampson has been on a modified program this summer as he manages a back problem that will likely stay with him for the rest of his career. Yoga and pilates, and avoiding long periods sitting down, have become standard parts of the 29-year-old's preparation, and the Tigers are confident the issue is manageable. Vice-captain Jack Riewoldt re-worked his pre-season slightly, coming back early and then taking time off for his wedding, but his preparation this summer has been lauded. His role with the club's younger forwards has also continued over the summer as the 29-year-old grows as a leader. Half-back Bachar Houli has recovered from a slight calf problem that he carried through the early stages of pre-season. The 29-year-old spent periods with the rehab group and has been spotted completing his own running program, but he is now with the main training group. Wingman Shaun Grigg has enjoyed an uninterrupted summer and, while not among the leading few in the time trials, insiders have noted the 29-year-old has a new lease of life in his training this summer. Grand Final star Shane Edwards, 29, has been injury-free and his usual skilful self on the track. – Nathan Schmook

Tall defender Nathan Brown was back at the club early with the first-to-fourth-year Saints to start pre-season and has felt the benefits since. Aside from a slight niggle pre-Christmas that held him out of a couple of sessions, the 29-year-old has been impressive working under new backline coach Henry Playfair. Sam Gilbert is now the oldest player on St Kilda's list but the defender continues to add a lot of liveliness to training. The Saints have used the defender in the ruck in some match simulation, while the midfield coaches have mounted arguments to place him on a wing. The 31-year-old has barely missed a session. Captain Jarryn Geary has continued to shine internally as a leader and set the example with his preparation. He returned in top condition and won both time trials, with the 29-year-old looking set to lead the Saints again in 2018. David Armitage, 29, has enjoyed a solid block of training, particularly post-Christmas, after an injury-ruined 2017. Refreshed after an extended rest at the end of last season, the Saints have him pegged for a leading midfield role but have experimented with rotating the strong-bodied veteran in attack. – Nathan Schmook 

Sam Gilbert is now the oldest man on St Kilda's list. Picture: AFL Photos

Swans veterans did very little heavy training before the Christmas break in a bid to have them ready for this season, and it seems to have them in a good position to attack the year. Superstar forward Lance Franklin had a minor ankle operation but has recovered well, while Jarrad McVeigh (calf/hamstring) is also in great shape after his troubles this time last season. Skipper Josh Kennedy and Kieren Jack have eased into the new season with plenty of cross training and boxing, but Jack is in a much better position in 2018 after carrying a hip problem into last season. Defenders Heath Grundy and Nick Smith have also been monitored but both rarely miss games with injury and have been extremely professional with their training once again. - Adam Curley 

Star forward Josh Kennedy is in a race against time to be fit for round one after undergoing ankle surgery last month. The 30-year-old dual Coleman medallist returned to Lathlain Park for Monday's training session and walked laps in discussion with coach Adam Simpson before disappearing from the track. Kennedy's sidekick Mark LeCras, 31, has looked in sharp touch recently as he seeks to put a challenging 2017 behind him. LeCras was a standout last summer too before a hip injury cruelled his campaign and raised questions about his future. Key defender Eric Mackenzie, who like LeCras signed a one-year contract for 2018, has had a slow build-up after post-season toe surgery and the 29-year-old is only just being integrated into some skills drills. Ever-reliable skipper Shannon Hurn has been a constant presence over pre-season helping set the standard for the nine new faces at the club. – Travis King

The club lost 860 games of experience when Robert Murphy, Matthew Boyd and Travis Cloke called time on their impressive careers at the end of last season, but the Dogs still have some wise heads among their youthful playing group. With the sixth-youngest list in the AFL, Dale Morris, Liam Picken, Tory Dickson and Matt Suckling are the only players aged 29 and over at the Whitten Oval. The trio appear to be having solid pre-seasons, so there's no reason to think they wouldn't be firmly in coach Luke Beveridge's plans. At 35, Morris has shown no signs of slowing down and just needs some luck with injuries. Following a career-best season in the club's 2016 premiership campaign, Picken didn't have the same impact last year. The 31-year-old looks set to continue his renaissance as an attacking midfielder and dangerous forward after beginning his career as a defender. After 24 months of injury interruptions, Dickson, 30, will hoping for some luck so the sharp shooter can help fix the Dogs' inefficiency in attack. Suckling has been serviceable since crossing from Hawthorn, and the 29-year-old should again perform a role across the wing and half-forward. - Ryan Davidson