CARLTON defender Caleb Marchbank views the dark bruise sitting directly below his left eye in a positive light.
The result of an accidental head clash with teammate Charlie Curnow, it's symbolic of the fact the injury-plagued 27-year-old is finally back where he needs to be in pre-season.
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"I'm in among the action rather than sitting on a bike watching from afar," Marchbank told AAP at the Blues' Ikon Park headquarters.
"Charlie's big head gave me a good little knock. As much as I didn't like it at the time, it's nice to actually be out there in the thick of things.
"It's my first (pre-season) in five or six years. It's a bit different, the boys train hard."
Marchbank has managed just 53 senior games in seven seasons with Carlton since his switch from Greater Western Sydney.
Serious knee and neck injuries, among other setbacks, took a toll as Marchbank leant on Curnow and Sam Docherty during testing times together in the Blues' rehabilitation group.
All he wants now is continuity and a fair chance to make a good fist of his career, having earned a one-year contract extension for 2024.
Staying on track to complete a full summer training program is the first step.
"It gives me an opportunity to work on my craft and prepare my body to withstand a full season, hopefully," Marchbank said.
"I'm excited about that because I've come off a limited base whenever I've returned to play.
"But hopefully I've got that full pre-season behind me so I'll be able to play all 22 games and crack in next year."
That things are going well off the field helps, too.
Marchbank recently got engaged to partner Celeste Carey, involving his golden retrievers in the proposal, and freshened up over the off-season with a trip to Europe.
It included a visit to Barcelona's Olympic Stadium in October, when English superstar Jude Bellingham scored twice to silence the home crowd and seal a 2-1 'El Clasico' triumph for Real Madrid.
"We were supporting Barcelona but to see the best young player in the world score a double was unreal," Marchbank said.
"It's always helpful to go home to a settled lifestyle.
"I've got a beautiful partner and we've got a really good relationship that allows me to go home and switch off, and that's gold.
"That's helped the balance for me between football and life."
Marchbank recovered from a calf injury and played the last eight games of Carlton's barnstorming run to a preliminary final last season, which was "massive" for his confidence.
Now the stars could be aligning, with Marchbank injury-free and the premiership window wide open for the Blues and their long-suffering fans as they enter a third season under Michael Voss.
"We took massive strides and we grew as a group last season, and we found a level where we need to be," Marchbank said.
"To put ourselves in that (preliminary final) was pleasing and obviously we didn't get the result that we wanted to, but we now have the foundation to allow us to succeed and keep moving forward.
"The coaching group has given us stability over the last two seasons and clarity in our roles with what we need to do in order to put ourselves in a position to go again."