WITH the confidence in his body restored, Melbourne rising jet Christian Salem says he is ready to make his mark on the AFL in 2018.
Salem, pick No.9 in the 2013 NAB AFL Draft, has often been nominated as a breakout candidate at Melbourne with those inside the club as bullish about his talent and temperament as any player on the list.
The 22-year-old has approached breakout status in the past two years, but a series of hamstring injuries, the reoccurrence of a thyroid illness, being bizarrely knocked out by a brick at a pre-season camp and suspension at AFL and VFL level have prevented him from fully living up to his billing.
An uninterrupted pre-season leading into this year has made all the difference for Salem, who is set to shift into an inside midfield role in 2018 after being thrown between wing and half-back in recent years.
"I've had a big summer," Salem told AFL.com.au while on the club's community camp earlier this week.
"I got my body in a good condition after a few hiccups the last few years. For me, getting that consistency back into my game is most important."
Salem's dedication to turn himself into a full-time midfielder began before the Demons' officially got their pre-season underway in November.
He came to the club on day one of pre-season training in superb nick after a massive focus on getting his body AFL ready, following an intense training block in the off-season.
Salem, who has played 46 games in four seasons for the Demons, says he has already noticed a major difference in regard to the way he has been able to prepare his body for the rigours of a full AFL season.
After the hamstring issues first flared midway through the 2015 season, Demons fitness staff added strength and mobility work to his weights program during the week and glute and hip activation to his pre-game preparation.
Salem missed three games last year with a hamstring injury after feeling a grab in the back of his leg in the Demons' gritty three-point win over West Coast in round 14, but he has been in the clear since.
"That's probably the biggest shift to be honest, the confidence in my body," Salem said.
Christian Salem puts in the hard yards at pre-season training. Picture: AFL Photos
"That's something I haven't had much of the last couple of years so I've put in a lot of work, with my mechanics and a few other things so I'm looking forward to it (the year ahead)."
The thyroid issue, which Salem first suffered in his first few months in his maiden season in 2014, and then saw resurface in 2016, is also under control.
The thyroid is a gland in the neck which helps control the body's heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight.
"It's different to an injury - you know what it is and you know how to recover from it," Salem said.
"Your body's fine but you're just losing weight and your heart rate is pretty high and you can't do pretty much any training.
"But that's all under control. I'm off the medication so it's just regular blood tests now to make sure the levels are stable."
Salem averaged 21.4 disposals from 16 games last year, the most matches he has played in a single season, with his ball use and composure under pressure standing out.
According to Champion Data, Salem attended the second-most centre bounces (21) of any Melbourne player against North Melbourne in Saturday's JLT Community Series hit-out in Tasmania, just one less than clearance specialist Clayton Oliver.
Salem gathered 19 disposals at 84.2 per cent efficiency, winning five clearances and contributing two goal assists in a standout performance.
"That's where I see my best footy, but at the end of the day wherever the team needs me, I'm happy to play that role," he said.
Salem said it would be up to him, Christian Petracca, Angus Brayshaw, Clayton Oliver and Jayden Hunt to decide whether Melbourne is a legitimate finals contender in 2018, after the intense disappointment of missing September action last year.
"We're all a year older… I think a lot of the boys are ready to take that step up. We've all put in a lot of work but now it's time to perform," he said.