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'Fat Club' a thing of the past for key Dogs

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 01: Lachie Hunter of the Bulldogs looks upfield during the 2016 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between the Sydney Swans and the Western Bulldogs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on October 01, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/AFL Media)
Lachie Hunter has put in extra work over the off-season to ensure he's in peak shape
He's (Stringer) got a bit of a history of not coming back in the greatest nick
Lachie Hunter on Jake Stringer

LACHIE Hunter and Jake Stringer went from 'Fat Club' to a flag in the space of 12 months but it's not a journey the two Bulldogs are keen to repeat.

With a bunch of stars set to return in 2017, the fight for places in the reigning premiers' 22 is set to be intense, and the players know it.

After coming back from their off-season breaks in less than optimal condition last year, Hunter told News Corp that he and Stringer weren't falling victim to the same problem this time around.

Both players worked hard in the off-season and have returned fitter than ever.

"Me and Jakey were in 'Fat Club' last year, so we did a bit of running together and came back all right this year," Hunter said.

"We based ourselves at Newport athletics track. He's (Stringer) got a bit of a history of not coming back in the greatest nick," Hunter said.

"Fitness was the main focus and we ramped up kicking towards the end." 

Hunter said he and Stringer weren't alone in seeking to avoid any risk of a premiership hangover, with the bulk of the list returning in excellent condition.

"I think the nick the boys have come back in is better than last year or the year before," he said.

"No one can see what you're doing when the doors are closed and you're on holidays. So for everyone to come back how they have shows really good signs.

"We'll have to wait for games to see if anything's transferred."

The Bulldogs might have won their first flag since 1954, but they are set to get stronger next season.

Captain Bob Murphy (ACL), suspended forward Stewart Crameri, new addition Travis Cloke and defenders Marcus Adams and Matthew Suckling are all expected to be available for the season start.

None of that quintet was part of the 22 that claimed the club's second premiership.

Cloke and Crameri have trained well and could join Tom Boyd in a powerful forward mix. 

"(Cloke's) a big presence down forward, which we didn't really have a great deal of last year," Hunter said of the former Magpie.

"There's that clear bailout kick now if we need it."