THE START of the 2024 Toyota AFL Premiership Season is just over a month away.
Clubs are well and truly back into the swing of things, preparing for another massive campaign.
Some have enjoyed quieter off-seasons than others, with injuries, new contracts and potential positional changes the major talking points.
So, in case you missed it, here's what's been happening at your club over summer.
There have been casualties as the Crows have ramped up training over the summer months, with former captain Rory Sloane undergoing surgery on a detached retina and dashing defender Wayne Milera sidelined with another hamstring injury. Prized draftee Daniel Curtin spent time away from the main group with a jarred knee but is back in and expected to push for an early debut based on his otherwise impressive summer form. The Crows made a savvy signing in early January when athletic Irishman Karl Gallagher joined the club as a Category B rookie, with the 21-year-old impressing during a training stint. Promising youngster Luke Pedlar and wingman Mitch Hinge both signed contract extensions through to the end of 2026, while AFLW coach Matthew Clarke and captain Chelsea Randall also committed. With plenty of off-season energy going into the club's proposed move to Thebarton, coach Matthew Nicks has had to wait for a contract extension as he prepared to enter the final year of his deal. – Nathan Schmook
It's been business as usual for the Lions since resuming in early December. Will Ashcroft and Tom Doedee are progressing well from their knee reconstructions and expected to return midway and early into the season respectively. After off-season groin surgery, Lachie Neale is running strongly again and on track to play during the pre-season. Finals star Keidean Coleman extended his contract until the end of 2027, while the club mixed up its pre-season training with a four-day camp on the Sunshine Coast. – Michael Whiting
The Blues' pre-season has been soured by two injuries, most notably Jack Silvagni's ACL rupture that will see the forward miss the 2024 season. Important defender and reigning best-and-fairest winner Jacob Weitering also suffered a serious calf injury in mid-January, casting some doubt over his availability for the start of the season. Although Irish recruit Matt Duffy will miss the year with an ACL injury, he is expected to return to Australia in mid-2024 with a commitment for him to officially join the club next year. The return of Zac Williams, who missed the 2023 season due to an ACL injury, also has Carlton fans excited. Luke Sayers is also seeking an extension to remain as Blues president until the end of 2025. The Blues will play their two pre-season fixtures at Ikon Park against Geelong (February 22) and Melbourne (February 28). - Dejan Kalinic
Luckless key forward Dan McStay ruptured his left ACL while training at the start of December, and is expected to miss the entire 2024 season. The Pies have three list spots available, with Lachie Sullivan (Footscray), Campbell Hustwaite, Josh Eyre (Collingwood VFL), Brynn Teakle (Port Adelaide), Jack Bytel (St Kilda) and Sam Sofronidis (Collegians, VAFA) in the running. Coach Craig McRae spent some time in the US, completing a leadership course at Harvard University, with Hayden Skipworth taking the reins in his absence. Football boss Graham Wright is taking a sabbatical and will return in September. Nathan Murphy was cleared to return to football by an expert concussion medical panel, while Brayden Maynard has been building after a shoulder reconstruction. The Pies also appointed Sam Wright as their AFLW coach, while Isaac Quaynor has signed a five-year deal. - Sarah Black
After a tumultuous off-season heading into 2023, the Bombers have been quieter and far more settled ahead of 2024. There are a couple of injury concerns, although talismanic ruckman Sam Draper (groin) is nearing a return to full training while Dylan Shiel is on the comeback trail from foot and knee surgeries that could delay his start to the season. Young forward Jaiden Hunter is set to miss the campaign after rupturing his ACL. Young guns Elijah Tsatas, Zach Reid and Nate Caddy have also enjoyed strong pre-seasons in a boost for the Bombers. Essendon will take on St Kilda in a match simulation on February 23 before facing Geelong in the Community Series a week later. - Dejan Kalinic
The biggest news at Fremantle this summer was the signing of ruckman Sean Darcy through to the end of 2030, with interest now in whether the No.1 big man can recover from ankle surgery in time for round one. He joined match simulation for managed minutes in late January in a positive step. Others to sign on were defenders Brandon Walker (2027) and Hugh Davies (2026), while the Dockers formalised their leadership group, with captain Alex Pearce again endorsed and supported by co vice-captains Andrew Brayshaw and Caleb Serong. Sam van Rooyen (Claremont), Patrick Voss (Essendon), Max Beattie (Woodville-West Torrens) and Daniel McKenzie (St Kilda) have all spent time as train-on players through the Supplemental Selection Period as the Dockers consider how to fill two vacant list spots. Voss has been particularly impressive through match simulation. Tall defender Brennan Cox suffered a stress reaction in his fibula and is the main injury concern, while Luke Ryan (ankle) and Sam Switkowski (hamstring) also suffered minor setbacks. – Nathan Schmook
Jack Henry and Cam Guthrie (foot injuries) have been working their way back to full fitness after surgery last year, while Gary Rohan also had a slower start to pre-season after an ankle operation. Patrick Dangerfield and Tom Stewart will once again serve as captain and vice-captain, with the latter signing a three-year contract extension. The Cats have also floated the idea of star interceptor Stewart moving onto the ball in 2024. Nigel Lappin will now head up the Cats' development program after an off-season shuffle, and the club also lost development coach Daisy Pearce to the head AFLW role at West Coast. - Sarah Black
Most eyes at Suns training have been on new coach Damien Hardwick as he tries to fast-track his run-and-gun gameplan for the coming season. Alex Rance (leadership consultant), Shaun Grigg (midfield), Richard Douglas and Nick Malceski (both development) have also been added to the coaching group. No.3 draft pick Jed Walter has undergone surgery for a fractured collarbone and will return early in the season, while Jake Rogers is back to full training after recovering from a stress fracture in back. Bailey Humphrey and Sam Flanders were among those to impress in match sim during the week. A few of the younger Suns – Matt Rowell, Jack Lukosius, Ben King and co-captain Touk Miller – took time out to support the Brisbane Heat as they packed Heritage Bank Stadium on the way to winning cricket's Big Bash League. – Michael Whiting
Toby Bedford started the pre-season in perfect fashion, winning his second straight 2k time trial since joining the Giants 12 months earlier, but the big Christmas present for the club came just prior to the break when Aaron Cadman, the No.1 pick from the 2022 AFL Draft, extended his contract until end of 2026. The 195cm forward showed glimpses of his huge potential in 12 games last season and warded off rival interest to stay with the Giants. He'll get to work alongside three-time premiership forward Cam Mooney who was appointed to an advisory role to provide specialist coaching to the Giants' key-position players. The club has recently returned from a three-day camp in the Blue Mountains. – Michael Whiting
The Hawks are going along nicely as Sam Mitchell enters his third season as coach. The one headache during pre-season, that included a three-day camp in Torquay, is the foot fracture suffered by reigning best-and-fairest winner Will Day early in the new year. With no exact timeframe on a return, Day will be re-evaluated in the coming weeks. Exciting defender Changkuoth Jiath spent five days at a sports medicine clinic in Doha in early January, assessing his entire program, including biomechanics, after not playing since round nine last season. Jiath is now in full flight and training well. Defender James Blanck also extended his stay at the Hawks until the end of 2026. – Michael Whiting
Clayton Oliver's tumultuous summer has driven the headlines at Melbourne over the off-season, from rival clubs inquiring after his availability in the AFL Trade Period, to the club laying down the law over expectations of his behaviour. He was hospitalised briefly in October after suffering a seizure, and will face court in February after driving without a valid licence. Oliver left the club's training camp in Lorne early, before taking personal leave in January. He returned to training on Wednesday and faces a delayed start to the season as he regains full fitness. In non-Oliver news, former Lion Tom Fullarton will miss the start of the season after suffering a serious hamstring injury, while Lachie Hunter is in a race against time with a niggly calf. Veteran tall Tom McDonald is training as a defender, and skipper Max Gawn and deputy Jack Viney will reprise their leadership roles in 2024. - Michael Rogers
Defender Aidan Corr suffered a "significant" ankle sprain at pre-season training camp in December, returning in a modified program in the new year. Tarryn Thomas has had a tumultuous off-season both on and off the field, undergoing minor groin surgery and fronting the AFL Integrity Unit after a fresh allegation of "inappropriate behaviour". Nick Larkey has been elevated to vice-captain, with Bailey Scott and Harry Sheezel joining the leadership group. Jy Simpkin, Dylan Stephens and Liam Shiels finished top three in the time trial. Zac Fisher has had a few hamstring issues, while ruck Tristan Xerri needed facial surgery after a collision during match simulation. Jed Adcock and Xavier Clarke have joined as assistant coaches, while Brent Harvey has moved away from development coaching to an off-field role. - Sarah Black
December launched in fine style for the Power as star midfielder Zak Butters signed a two-year contract extension through to the end of 2026. Midfielder Willem Drew (2028) and tall forward Ollie Lord (2026) then followed before the massive announcement that star onballer Connor Rozee had both been appointed captain and signed an eight-year extension through to the end of 2032. There have been hiccups, like finger surgery for new ruckman Ivan Soldo and an arthroscopy for draftee Xavier Walsh following a jarred knee. Off the field, there has been interest in the race for a vacant member-elected board position, with club great Warren Tredrea vying for election. – Nathan Schmook
Nearly all of Richmond's pre-season news is injury related. Ruck Toby Nankervis will be solo captain in 2024, after Dylan Grimes stepped back following two years in the shared role. Dustin Martin has had a few minor hiccups, including a head knock and a rolled ankle, while Tom Lynch has made his long-awaited return to running. Grimes is battling a calf injury, Nick Vlastuin has had to sit out recent sessions with concussion and Dion Prestia has been hampered by another soft-tissue injury, but Josh Gibcus looks right to go after sitting out 2023 with a complex hamstring injury. Noah Balta looks set to play in attack, rather than defence, this season under new coach Adem Yze. - Sarah Black
While the departure of CEO Simon Lethlean shocked the footy world, it's been a low-key pre-season on the training track for the Saints. Goalsneak Dan Butler is in a race against the clock to be ready for round one with a persistent ankle injury hampering his pre-season. Max King's return from shoulder surgery is tracking nicely, while Anthony Caminiti (hamstring) and Jack Hayes (knee) are also undertaking modified training programs as they recover from injuries. The respective workloads of veterans Brad Crouch, Dougal Howard and Tim Membrey have been managed across the pre-season, while untried defender James Van Es recently underwent ankle surgery to remove a screw from an earlier operation which was causing discomfort. The Saints take on Essendon in a match simulation on February 23 before lining up against North Melbourne in their Community Series match on March 3. - Sophie Welsh
Much of the focus in the off-season has been on Sydney's new faces, with ruck Brodie Grundy - who will wear the No.4 jumper made famous by another big-name recruit, the great Tony Lockett - opening up about his move north and former Demon James Jordon impressing in pre-season training. Errol Gulden fired a warning shot after his breakout 2023, winning the 2km time trial on his return to training in January, while 15 others recorded personal best times. Callum Mills hit the training track in Coffs Harbour this week as he continues to recover from a serious shoulder injury, giving rise to hopes that he could return earlier than expected. Mills is the only player carrying a major injury, with young ruck Lachlan McAndrew managing a minor wrist problem and Sam Reid and Joel Amartey on modified programs given their history. Off the field, recruiting boss Simon Dalrymple departed to join St Kilda after six years at the club. - Martin Smith
The big news of a busy summer at the Eagles was the announcement that Oscar Allen and Liam Duggan had been appointed co-captains, with the pair just the second duo to share the job in the club's history. The constant, however, has been Harley Reid watch as the prized draftee makes a splash in the west and impresses through his first pre-season, splitting his time between half-back and the midfield. Dom Sheed (foot) Elijah Hewett (foot) and Liam Ryan (hamstring) are the major injury concerns after summer setbacks, with Ryan signing a two-year contract extension through to the end of 2026. Off field, new chief executive Don Pyke started at the club mid-January, while list manager Rohan O'Brien stood down after more than 30 years at the club. The club received a massive boost when it was able to secure AFLW champion Daisy Pearce as its new AFLW coach. – Nathan Schmook
It's been a turbulent off-season for the Dogs, headlined by the heartbreaking ACL injury for midfield gun, Bailey Smith. With the 23-year-old in demand and uncontracted at the end of this season, his future will be a major talking point in 2024 and there's a possibility he's already played his last game for the club. Star ruckman Tim English, whose contract status will also be in focus this year, was forced to sit out contact drills last month after suffering migraine-related symptoms, but tests confirmed the issue is not concussion related. Jack Macrae, Alex Keath, Laitham Vandermeer, Bailey Williams, Riley Garcia, Jordan Croft and Aidan O'Driscoll have also had injury-interrupted pre-seasons, although young tall Sam Darcy is primed for a breakout year after impressing in match simulation sessions. There's been some major changes off field at the Dogs as well, with a host of coaching departures and a review by former Essendon and Melbourne CEO Peter Jackson leading to Matt Egan being promoted to the new role of general manager of football operations. - Martin Smith