THE first time Rodney Eade saw young star Jack Martin at Gold Coast pre-season training, he wasn't impressed.
Martin ran a 2km time trial in early November, languishing near the back of the field with a time that barely broke eight minutes.
He beat home only a handful of the Suns' big men.
"When I got back he wasn't too impressed with my running," Martin told AFL.com.au.
"A new coach coming in, so you want that good first impression and I didn't run well that first couple of weeks."
But the 19-year-old had a good reason.
Along with high performance manager Stephen Schwerdt, Martin had devised a plan to add some size to his wiry frame in the off-season.
He came back five kilograms heavier – all muscle – much to the surprise of both Schwerdt and Martin.
"I didn't think he could put on that much in that short a period of time," Schwerdt said.
With the extra weight to lug around, Martin struggled.
But as the weeks have worn on his running has improved, and despite still carrying the kilos he set a new personal best at the Suns' final time trial before their Christmas break – clocking 6.38 for the 2km last Friday.
The quietly-spoken West Australian had a mixed first season, dislocating his shoulder in the opening minutes of round one, before returning strongly to play the final 10 games.
His final round outing against West Coast showcased his talent with four goals and 19 disposals.
Now fitter and stronger, Martin weighs 79kg and hopes to add another kilo or two before the season begins.
"First couple of weeks I did feel a bit heavy and a bit slow," he said.
"There's bigger bodies out there, so I've got to get a lot bigger and a lot stronger… I've got to try and keep that weight on."
Martin is not only skilful, able to kick equally well off both feet and soar high for pack marks, but is courageous and surprisingly strong over a contested ball.
Schwerdt said the change of physique would not come at the cost of the attributes that made Martin such a unique package.
"You can't get too caught up with those guys putting on more and more size, because what you'll do is you'll take away some of their greatest strengths," he said.
"He's a wiry player who can get in and out of packs, he can take a freakish mark and has that evasiveness, and you don't want to take that away from him.
"You don't want to get caught up in making him bigger and bigger because you'll take away from some of his greatest strengths."
Martin said he had learnt a lot from his setback last year – and maintained his sense of humour.
"Hopefully I can keep the good training and come out round one and make it past five minutes," he said with a laugh.
"It was very devastating. I've never really had a long-term injury. I'll be back bigger and stronger next year and hopefully have a good season."