LAST year was a painful one for Greater Western Sydney forward Zac Langdon.
There was the pain of a pre-season foot issue that caused a late start to the year, followed by ankle surgery that ended his season in July.
After playing 21 games and kicking 21 goals in 2018, the mature-aged draftee (from Claremont in the WAFL) was limited to just three appearances and zero majors in his second season.
There was also the pain of being forced to sit on the sidelines as the Giants stormed to the Grand Final, with Brent Daniels – who didn't miss a match in 2019 – playing a starring role and entrenched as the club's No.1 small forward in Langdon's absence.
Langdon, 24, told AFL.com.au that it was a season to forget, but he's determined to regain his position in the Giants' best side.
"Last year was the polar opposite to my first year, and the hardest thing was seeing other boys getting your spot, and you can't do anything about it because you're in rehab," he said.
"I wanted to be playing but there wasn't anything I could do about it, so I wasn't too filthy.
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"Obviously those boys played in the finals but coming into a fresh pre-season, I think it's a level playing field to be honest.
"I guess that’s the best thing about the summer; you've got a few months to perform out there and get your name back out there again.
"Once we start getting into match play I guess we'll see where we all sit, but it's going to be competitive for spots and I think that will only make the team heaps better.
"Hopefully come match play, I can kick a few goals and catch the eye of the coaches again."
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Langdon has made a perfect start to reaching his 2020 goals after a faultless summer.
While tempted to train through the off-season period to get a jump on his teammates, Langdon took the advice of the club's strength and conditioning team and took a break, holidaying in Europe while still keeping himself in shape.
The results have showed, with the small forward winning the Alan McConnell Cup (an annual run held by the Giants at their final session of the year) and placing second to Nick Shipley in the 2km time trial in the first session of the new year.
In career-best shape and stronger after another summer of training at the highest level, Langdon hopes he can not only have an impact inside 50 this year, but through the midfield.
"I really want to make that pressure small-forward position my own again, but I want to add some strings to my bow, so the selectors can see that I can play up the ground too, and step in if I'm needed," he said.
The result of the last year's decider only added to the torment for Langdon. He was an emergency for the club's last two finals and had returned to full fitness by Grand Final day but ran out of time to fight his way back into Leon Cameron's 22.
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"It was tough," he said.
"Warming up on the ground with the boys and being in the parade, all of that stuff was awesome to be a part of but sitting with the other boys in the crowd, watching the game, it was hard to put ourselves in the boys' shoes.
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"I know that they were so flat and disappointed with the result, but that wasn't a true reflection of how we can play.
"We've had a good chat about it and it hurts, but we'll learn from it and we're hungry to make amends."