BRODIE Grundy is on a mission to - in his own words - get back to "Vintage 2014 Brodie".
The Collingwood ruckman has shredded three kilograms after spending more than two months with family in Adelaide over the off-season and training and studying "pretty much everyday".
Grundy was a Therabody AFL All-Australian in 2018 and 2019 but has since slipped down the rucking pecking order.
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There were three rucks in the 2021 All-Australian squad of 40 and they were Melbourne's Max Gawn, Fremantle's Sean Darcy (first time), and West Coast's Nic Naitanui. Gawn went on to be named captain of the team, and Naitanui was selected on the bench.
Naitanui and Gawn both featured in the 2020 All-Australian team, while Grundy again missed out on being named in that year's squad of 40.
There is no doubt the bar for Grundy is high after he resisted overtures from Adelaide to return home, and signed a monster seven-year deal ahead of the 2020 season to stay at Collingwood.
But since then Grundy has not lived up to the hype, and the criticism has come. Despite averaging more hitouts per game than any other ruckman this year, Grundy lacked the same impact as he did in those AA years.
AFL.com.au commentator Kane Cornes said on SEN radio on Tuesday: "He signed a big deal, was the best ruckman in the game. He's certainly not that anymore."
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Gawn is now the clear No.1 ruck in the AFL and Grundy is aware he needs to lift his own standing.
"I've trimmed up, just trying to give myself the best opportunity to play my best footy and I think that probably starts with just having a really good pre-season and just getting as fit as I can," he said on Monday.
"I'm just trying to get better everyday and that's something as a whole team we're trying to subscribe to is having winning habits ... and that for me started as soon as last [season] finished."
Grundy said his new coach Craig McRae wanted him to bring his "flair" to games next year, and Cornes agreed: "[Grundy] needs a big year, doesn't he?"
"He did look as though at times he was either injured or struggling to cover the ground as fluently as what he had done in the past, which has been his major strength. He's essentially a 22-possession midfielder who plays in the ruck.
"What I don't understand, and we hear these stories all the time in the off-season ... with all the resources, with all the information that players have, why did [Grundy] allow himself to get a bit big?
"Wouldn't someone have pulled him into line, or wouldn't he have realised himself that, 'I had my best season in 2019, this is what worked for me, I'm just going to replicate that'. I'm not sure putting on weight has ever been a good thing for most AFL players. Sometimes it takes a while to realise."
Grundy was asked by reporters on Monday, if could assume the mantle as the game's No.1 ruckman? He said he didn't want to project too far into next season. But if actions do speak louder than words, it appears it is indeed 'game on' in The Battle of the Big Men for season 2022.