Sydney Swans defender Jordan Lockyer turned his attention to the 2013 season much earlier than most.
The 19-year-old, who missed the majority of the 2012 season with ongoing hamstring injuries, began his preparation for the new season as early as September, while the rest of the club was deep in finals mode.
Four months on and the young defender is back in shape, and has been described by players and coaches alike as one of the most improved players so far this pre-season.
Speaking after training this morning, Lockyer said it has taken a lot of hard work, but his time at the club is slowly getting back on track.
“My footy is still not where I’d like it to be at the moment, but being out on the track is the main thing now and it’s about getting into that rhythm and getting better,” Lockyer told sydneyswans.com.au
“I’ve definitely improved a lot since coming back on the first day of pre-season where I was probably a bit out of shape after missing a lot of last year through injury.
“I’ve been doing a lot of extra running and over the Christmas break I did a lot of extra work and now I’m building up my fitness base with all the extra running and I’m starting to really get into the groove now, which is good.”
As one of the up-and-coming backmen at the club, Lockyer has been working closely with premiership winning pair Nick Smith and Ted Richards over the last 12 months, describing both as terrific role models in educating him and other young players on how to play, train and manage injury.
“Last year my mentor Nick Smith was a massive influence, especially when I was injured he kept me up and about and he’s been really good again this year even though he’s been injured himself,” Lockyer said.
“Someone like Teddy Richards is also someone good around the club and is someone I’d aspire to be like. I admire the way he goes about things both on the field and off the field and is just a really professional guy.”
While it is clear that Lockyer has put in his best pre-season to date, the Swans number 23 said he is still cautious of getting ahead of himself following his trials last year.
“Last year, even though I didn’t have a bad pre-season, I still missed quite a bit of the pre-season through illness and a bit of knee trouble, so this year I haven’t had too many hiccups, which is a big positive,” Lockyer said.
“There has been a real emphasis on strength work, particularly strength work through my legs, so personally I don’t feel like I’m just going to break down with injury - touch wood!”
He added that continuity in his training was something he hoped to achieve this season.
“My main goal at the moment is to keep putting sessions back-to-back in the pre-season,” Lockyer said.
“Hopefully then I’ll be able to get my body into really good shape and then push for senior selection throughout the year.”