MELBOURNE tough nut Aaron vandenBerg admits he had a few moments when he felt his horrid run with injuries would force him to give up the game he loved.
A spate of foot injuries has allowed the rugged midfielder to play just seven games in the past three seasons, with the pain causing him to make a number of sacrifices to his day-to-day routine.
"It's tremendously difficult," vandenBerg said following Melbourne's Marsh Community Series win against Adelaide.
"I haven't played golf in a year and a half, I had to get rid of my dog because I couldn't walk him."
vandenBerg assured reporters that his golden retriever, Toby, was in safe hands at his mum's house.
The luckless Demon has been put on a new measured training program, giving him hope that he can finally string some games together.
"I'm only training twice a week now, as opposed to the other boys who are doing four sessions a week," he said.
"My main goal is to get back and play and that's the only thing I care about.
"The idea being I'll train once a week (once the premiership season starts) and play most games."
vandenBerg said he was "still a bit scratchy" after his first competitive hitout in almost 12 months, but started to feel like he was finally back once he laid a chase-down tackle.
Despite being "ecstatic" to have returned to footy, he is firmly focused on a round one return to AFL ranks.
Should vandenBerg be selected to face West Coast at Optus Stadium in round one, it will be his first senior game since the Demons' 2018 preliminary final thrashing at the hands of the Eagles at the same venue.
"The last five seasons I've played nearly every Marsh Series game but haven't played round one in three," vandenBerg said.