A NAGGING calf injury did not slow Lachie Neale's pre-season progress, with Brisbane's Brownlow medallist warning he's added more weapons to his artillery ahead of Saturday night's round one match against Sydney.
Neale admitted to being frustrated after missing a "fair chunk" of pre-season through January and early February, but says he's now never felt fitter.
"I missed quite a bit of training, but I was doing a fair bit of running," he said following a light session on Tuesday morning.
MEDICAL ROOM The full AFL injury list
"I feel probably the fittest I've been leading into a season, I've done a lot of running. I feel strong, powerful and ready to go."
Running is not the only area the midfield maestro has worked on.
Prior to his incredible 2020 season – which yielded a remarkable 31 Brownlow votes from 17 games – Neale made no secret he wanted to become a more damaging midfielder. That meant more metres gained and more goals, which he delivered on.
Ahead of this season, he's worked on areas both on and off the field.
CRYSTAL BALL Our predictions for the 2021 season are in
Neale said he wanted to become a more proficient kick delivering the ball inside 50, improve his goalkicking (14.13 last year) and become a "master" with his hands.
"I've been working extra hard on my hands," he said. "Just be a one-touch player 100 per cent of the time. You're never going to get that, but that's what I'm striving for."
However, perhaps the biggest change in Neale's routine has been off the field, employing someone to help with mental preparation.
"The physical bucket is pretty full with most AFL players, but I don't think we tap into the mental bucket as much," he said.
"I think I can grow in that area. I want to enjoy my footy a lot more than probably what I have in the past.
"I tend to be relieved after a game if I've done well and the team's had a win.
"I'm just trying to enjoy the process and enjoy every minute of it, whether that's at training, in the weights room, or on the field.
"There's millions of people that would love to be in my position, so it's about enjoying what I'm doing instead of treating it as a job and feeling relieved if we win.
"I'm just trying to enjoy what I'm doing.
"Some people drop off their performances a bit after a really good year, I don't want to be one of those."
Neale said he would continue to spend most of his time onball in 2021, but would drift forward when 'resting' and possibly even play at half-back on occasions – something the Lions have done in match simulation.
"We just want to keep improving as a team," he said. "We've got a lot of growth left in us.
"Personally, when I think about it, anything short of a premiership for me is a fail. That's not me speaking on behalf of the whole club. We've got our sights set really high."