YOUNG midfielder Reuben Ginbey took out West Coast's first running trial of the pre-season on Monday after outlasting teammate Campbell Chesser in a gruelling test in front of more than a dozen senior teammates that returned to training early.
The Eagles' first-to-fourth-year players started Monday's opening session by completing a MAS (maximal aerobic speed) test, which involved running at increasing speeds around a course until all runners were eliminated, with Ginbey pushing himself to his limit over almost 30 minutes.
The midfielder was among 30 players who returned for day one of pre-season, including senior players Jeremy McGovern, Elliot Yeo, Tom Barrass, Dom Sheed, Liam Duggan, Tom Cole and Jamie Cripps, who were among 14 more senior Eagles not yet due back.
With increased upper-body size and a rapidly developing aerobic capacity, Ginbey staked his early claim for a leading midfield role in 2024 alongside Chesser, who also appeared in excellent condition ahead of a crucial third season.
Ginbey's ability to use his physical presence during drills to break tackles was a standout feature of Monday's session, while Chesser's skills were on show as he aims to build on his 14 games in 2023, including the last 10 of the season.
"He (Ginbey) is in super nick at the moment. He's been the benchmark for boys to catch over the off-season so far, and no matter how hard anyone tries, you just can't catch him," teammate Noah Long said on Monday.
"He's set a great standard for boys to get to, and after his hammy last year it's been a good opportunity to get super fit again and I don't think that'll cause any issues.
"He'll get a bit more size, and all of us young boys from last year are just super grateful for the exposure that we had. To get better into next year, that'll help us a lot."
Long, who revealed he had taken up retired champion Luke Shuey's offer of wearing jumper No.13 in 2024, said the Eagles' young core had spent a lot of time over the off-season training together in Perth.
The 19-year-old signed a two-year extension last month after moving to Perth from Victoria, with his close friendships among the young group making the transition from Victoria seamless.
Asked if former Vic Country teammate Harley Reid would fit into the club if snared with pick No.1 in this month's National Draft, the small forward said: "Definitely. We've made a pretty good environment for every young kid to fit in. It's just exciting if we can get any young players in".
Also back in action on Monday were second-year pair Elijah Hewett and Coby Burgiel, who will hope to make his debut in 2024 after a debut season ruined by hamstring injuries.
Big-bodied midfielder Jai Culley was on track running laps as he plots his return from an ACL injury in May, while tall defender Harry Edwards, who battled groin issues through 2023, did a lot of work away from the main group.
Among the other senior Eagles back early were star forward Oscar Allen, Jake Waterman, Jack Petruccelle, Alex Witherden, Jamaine Jones, Bailey Williams and Josh Rotham.
Norm Smith medallist and former skipper Luke Shuey was also back, starting life in his new role as an assistant coach.