NOT SINCE playing for Woodville/West Torrens in the SANFL has Port Adelaide midfielder Jared Polec felt so good on the eve of a season.
Polec played for the Eagles before being drafted at pick No.5 by the Brisbane Lions in 2010, only for persistent injuries to restrict the prodigious talent to just 16 games since.
Ankle issues were largely to blame and his three premiership campaigns for the Lions were all played off restricted pre-seasons.
But, guided by the Power's star high performance manager Darren Burgess, the 21-year-old is nearing the end of an almost flawless summer and has turned his back on what he playfully described as an injury curse.
His pre-season form was evident against Adelaide in last Sunday's NAB Challenge encounter where he was Port's best AFL Fantasy performer with 91 points (20 possessions, five tackles).
"I pulled up pretty well after the game, probably the best I've felt in the last three years, so it's good to have the pre-season under my belt," Polec said.
"Normally it takes me a couple of days just to feel good again but I feel good now – I feel like I could play straight away almost.
"Just my general fitness is a lot better and knowing that I've done a full pre-season helps with my confidence too."
Polec was in Whyalla on Monday and Tuesday for the Power's Australia Post Community Camp, where he and his teammates ran a series of football clinics and school visits.
He joked it was a pleasant change to meet young fans who didn't confuse him for a Brisbane Broncos player, as was occasionally the case in Queensland.
Assistant Power coach Matthew Nicks has previously commended the change in Polec's attitude since arriving at the club, talking up the improvement in his defensive game.
That claim was joined by praise from senior coach Ken Hinkley and Polec said he too had noticed his development.
"I think it's more effort that I've put into it this pre-season, [I'm] a bit more professional, more settled," he said.
"I think I've improved in my defence since being at Port Adelaide, they've been really strong on it.
"Just lining up my inside shoulder and making sure I don't get 'stepped', which I've been trying to work on a lot too and reaction to defence has improved.
"[It] still needs [further] improvement though."
With as many as 15 players expected to return to Port's line up to face Essendon next Tuesday, Polec said he wasn't assured a place in a the side that will better resemble its best 22.
Hinkley said that by the end of the NAB Challenge he hoped to have found his round one side.
Regardless of whether he's selected to play the Bombers, Polec's on the right path to ensure he's part of Hinkley's round one plans.
"I have to wait and see if I get picked [against the Bombers] – there area few boys coming back," he said.
"Fingers crossed I get selected in that side.
"We've got a really strong side, we played finals footy [last year] I hopefully can get a few games early on, but we'll just wait and see."