A PRE-SEASON starved of football due to a pesky ankle injury has left Richmond big man Ivan Maric determined to reclaim the position of his club’s No.1 ruckman in the coming months.
Maric, 28, missed all of the Tigers' pre-season games because of surgery to remove bone spurs that were blocking movement in his right ankle in late February.
In his absence, former Blue Shaun Hampson has stepped up as the main Richmond big man with up-and-coming tall Ben Griffiths also starting the year impressively.
Maric says he won't rush his return from surgery and wants to be fit enough to return as the first-choice ruckman who handles crucial centre bounces.
"When the game is on the line and there's a centre bounce there, I want to be in there," Maric told AFL.com.au this week.
"That's what I want. I want to be that person the coach calls upon when the game's on the line.
"I don't want to come back in after not really having a pre-season and not be able to perform at my best."
Before soreness in Maric's ankle forced the operation over summer, the three Richmond big men were training together.
All three are capable of playing forward, which Maric believes will become part of his own game when he gets back in the seniors.
The former Crow says his history of having to deal with ailments, including a problematic hip in 2007 and 2008 when he was at Adelaide, has taught him how to recover with renewed determination.
"I suppose it's being a bit more mature about it, having an end goal and a vision of where I want to be at in two months time, [rather] then being really focused on the present and living and training in the moment," he said.
"I think that comes with a bit of maturity, and having a few injuries and setbacks at Adelaide has developed that side of my career."
Maric started running two weeks ago and will slowly build up, with the next week to determine how quickly – three, four or five weeks – he can push to play.
Having not played a game since the Tigers' elimination final loss to Carlton last year, he acknowledged he would likely start in the VFL.
And, having watched West Coast combine ruckmen Dean Cox, Nic Naitanui and Callum Sinclair in rounds one and two, Maric is anticipating he will form part of a new ruck trio for the Tigers.
"It's been really hard [watching] but really exciting because Shaun's doing really well and is a great person," he said.
"You could tell that straight away from his first day and then guys like Ben Griffiths are really doing well.
"Ben’s body's coping really well and he's training really well and has had a good pre-season so he's been playing that second ruck role.
"It's been exciting to watch."Twitter: @AFL_JenPhelan