GIVEN the excitement over his every move this time last year and the subsequent disappointment that followed, Jaeger O’Meara is maintaining a sense of perspective as he enters his second pre-season as a Hawk.
But the signs are positive, with the dynamic midfielder reporting that his knee is feeling "really good".
"I’ve been able to do most, if not all, of the program so far," he told hawthornfc.com.au from New Zealand on the second day of the club’s training camp.
"It’s obviously early days in the pre-season, so I’m keeping a lid on it, but it is feeling great and I’m really happy with how it’s going."
The Hawks traded out a slew of draft picks to bring O’Meara to the club from Gold Coast despite a major patella injury that meant he didn't play at all for the Suns in 2015 and 2016.
And then after just four early-season games in 2017, a fresh knee injury that took some time to correctly diagnose and then treat, kept him out until the final two games of the season.
Both O’Meara and the club had to deal with questions about his durability. Outspoken commentator Kane Cornes said the deal to bring him to Waverley shaped as "one of the worst of all time".
What O’Meara did learn from nearly four months on the sidelines was how the footy media bubble worked, particularly for a newcomer to Melbourne.
"I’ve learned to deal with it. It took a bit of getting used to when I first arrived at the club, but I’ve taught myself to block it out and stay focused on what I need to focus on," he said.
The 23-year-old played well when he returned to the side for the final fortnight of the season and even garnered a Brownlow vote in round 23 after a 25-possession, 11-tackle performance against the Western Bulldogs.
"I wasn’t too worried about the Brownlow vote, I was just happy to get back out there and make a contribution to the team," he said. "It was a really good way to finish the season."
He is tracking well so far this summer, but the season is more than three months away, hence the initial low-key goal of getting through the camp.
"Then we’ve got a few weeks before our Christmas break, so I’ll try and put in a good block of training before then," O'Meara said.
"And obviously, the main goal is to play as many games as possible in 2018, but I’m just taking things slow and crossing each hurdle as they come."