CLEARANCE king Tom Liberatore is among a handful of big-name Western Bulldogs players easing into the early stages of pre-season training.
Liberatore, who played all but one of the Bulldogs' 26 games in 2021 after an injury-interrupted few years, took part in light duties at the open training session at Whitten Oval on Wednesday morning.
He was joined by father-son recruit Sam Darcy and dangerous forward Cody Weightman away from the main group, with the former still recovering from a stress fracture in his foot.
Liberatore is easing into pre-season given his injury history, which includes knee reconstructions in 2015 and 2018, while Weightman is nursing the ankle he had surgery on post-season.
Josh Bruce, Stefan Martin, Anthony Scott and Mitch Hannan rounded out the light-duties group, who spent some of the session by the boundary before returning to the club’s gym.
Martin, now 35, is working towards his 15th season and appears set to take a circumspect approach to summer training after an injury-ravaged 2021.
Bailey Smith, who turned 21 on Tuesday, was not present while West Australian pair Aaron Naughton and Tim English are training in Perth until 2022 due to border complications. The pair recently trained with WAFL club South Fremantle.
There was, however, some key-position stock on the track, with the high-flying Tim O’Brien — who arrived at the Bulldogs from Hawthorn as a free agent — moving well. The tall produced a Mark of the Year contender deep in the forward line last season, but will provide improved defensive depth after showing strong backline form later in the Hawks’ campaign.
Second-year forward Jamarra Ugle-Hagan participated through the entire skills session, continuing his push for a best-22 berth after his highly anticipated debut season yielded only five games.
Captain Marcus Bontempelli left the track before the session concluded but did not appear unsettled.
Wednesday's training revolved around skills and touch, with players working on ground-balls, crumbing from contests, and perfecting their kicking on non-preferred feet. Forwards worked on their goalkicking craft under the tutelage of development coach Travis Varcoe, who instructed players to snap for home on the run.
Conditions held more resemblance to a mid-season session rather than the summer challenge one might expect in December, as a sharp southerly breeze pushed rain across Whitten Oval.
Meanwhile, mature-age rookie draftee Charlie Parker has already turned heads with a blistering start to pre-season training after impressing in a gruelling running drill earlier in the week.
Parker, 24, was taken at pick No.17 in last month's NAB AFL Rookie Draft, arriving from SANFL club Sturt. The 193cm utility is a speedy talent but as displayed in the early stages of pre-season, he also holds a strong aerobic base.
Instead of the traditional 2km time trial, the Bulldogs squad did a drill based around interval efforts in a bid to better replicate the running patterns players are tasked with during a game. Parker was a standout, along with tough onballer Josh Dunkley as senior Dogs joined their first-to-fourth-year teammates in early training.