WITH a frustrating year on the sidelines now behind him, key defender Kaiden Brand is confident he can make his mark in 2016.
The 21-year-old missed the whole of 2015 with injuries to both shoulders, but has has relished the opportunity to get back amongst the action since the first day of pre-season.
“It’s good to be back out there training with the boys and getting back into some gameplay, which I’ve missed,” Brand told hawthornfc.com.au on Thursday.
“It was a long 12 months out of the game, so it’s good to be back into it and I’m really excited for the year.”
After dealing with the frustration of not being able to be involved last year, Brand believes he’s in a strong position for 2016.
“It was very frustrating. At the start, it all happened pretty quickly so I didn’t have time to process it, but as the year went on it got pretty frustrating to not be able to be a part of everything with all the boys,” he said.
“So far the shoulders are really good and I’m in a really strong position.
“On day one (of pre-season) I was fit and firing and ready to go. I managed to get a lot of running in over the end of the season last year, and I was feeling really fit coming into the pre-season.”
Brand said the biggest challenge after missing last year had been adapting to the gameplay element of training.
“Obviously 12 months without it is a long time and it takes a bit of time to get used to all the structures again, but I’m starting to get my head around it and I think by the time we start playing I’ll be ready to go,” he said.
The retirement of triple-premiership defender Brian Lake has opened a door for Brand, who at 198 centimetres and 92 kilograms, looks ready-made to take on the power forwards.
He understands it’s not going to be an easy spot to claim – particularly with the likes of Matt Spangher, Kurt Heatherley and Angus Litherland also waiting in the defensive wings – but says he’s ready to compete for his opportunity.
“Obviously I want to be playing AFL footy from day dot, so that’s been my focus coming into this pre-season,” Brand said.
“I was tracking pretty well at this time last year and I sort of felt like I was ready then… the setback held me back a bit, but now I feel like I’m ready to go.
“Once that opportunity comes I’ll be ready to take it with both hands.”