Hear from Backline Coach Kade Simpson on how each defender has gone so far this pre-season.

James Sicily

“Sis has barely missed a session throughout pre-season. He is so important to us. Whenever we need someone to stand up he is usually the one to take an important mark or something like that. Now in his second season as skipper, he is still developing his leadership, but he leads with his actions really well. In my eyes, he is the best defender in the game. I don’t really need to coach him that much, it’s more about what he needs from me to help him perform at the level that he has the past couple of seasons. Similar to Jars, I try and bounce ideas off him to see what the players need.”

Jarman Impey

“Jars has had an outstanding pre-season, he set himself up really well over the break and came back super fit. This has allowed him to barley miss a session, and his running ability has gone to that next level. I couldn’t be happier with what he has produced so far. He has been able to get to more contests, outnumber more contests, and use his weapons with his speed, run and ability to break the lines. His leadership has really blossomed too, he was new to the ‘Moorditj Kuda’ leadership group last year, and he keeps trending upwards in that space. He’s always looking for opportunities where he can part his wisdom on the younger guys. We’re lucky we’ve got him and Karl Amon in the backline, who are quite experienced, to mentor guys like Seamus Mitchell and Bailey Macdonald. I use him as a bit of a sounding board to bounce ideas off. I’m super excited about what he can produce as he has put himself in a really good position to attack the season."

Karl Amon

“Karl was on a modified program pre-Christmas, but has done everything post-Christmas. That was always the plan going into the pre-season and that was executed perfectly by him and our High Performance Manager Peter Burge. I think he is in a really good space to attack the season. His real strength is his creativity with the ball. Anytime he gets the footy, we look dangerous and he usually uses it well. We’re trying to get the ball in his hands as much as possible as he’s going to make opposition really pay. We’re really happy with how he is going. He sees the game incredibly well, he is always one or two kicks ahead of the play, defensively and offensively. He’s still quite new to the backline group, so having him do a pre-season with the group and become familiar with that space is only going to be beneficial."

Ethan Phillips

“In the two weeks I’ve had with Ethan he has been great. While he is new, he had filtered through the group during the pre-season doing the odd session here and there with Box Hill just to give us more numbers for match simulation drills and that kind of thing. I was really excited about what he was able to produce in a half against the Western Bulldogs last week. It looked as though he had done the full pre-season. For him, it’s about getting up to speed with out system and how we want to play defensively and offensively, but from what I’ve seen that won’t take long. Hopefully it’s the start of a long career for him and not just as a ‘back up’, having come in off the back of what unfortunately happened with Blancky (James Blanck), but if he grabs it with both hands, it could be the start of something special. He’s so eager to learn – he is almost banging my door down asking what time I’m arriving at the club so we can run through some vision together. He’s got all the resources now to keep on improving."

Josh Weddle

“Weds is only in his second season and you kind of forget that he is that young. He he is the ultimate professional, he understands the game and always wants to learn. I have to remind myself that he is only in his second season. I want him to be the best he can be, and he wants the same. He is impatient, which I love. The sky’s the limit for Weds, and I don’t want to put a limit on what he can produce because he is a pretty special talent."

Jack Scrimshaw

“I finished some vision with him the other day and afterwards I told him that he has given himself the best opportunity to have a great year off a really solid off-season and now pre-season. During the off-season he went away to America with a few of the boys like Will Day, Dylan Moore, and Changkuoth Jiath, they all had each other as training partners over there, so he got plenty of work in. In my eyes, he was probably our best player against the Dogs last week. Hopefully, there is more of that to come. He has the ability to play on key position guys, but can also play on smalls, he is similar to Sis and Weds – he can play on all different types of forwards, but then impact in the air and ground level. Offensively and defensively, he can have a big say in how we go this year. He has put himself in a really good spot to have a good year."

Sam Frost

“Frosty has been good. Things we’re a little bit interrupted and managing his loads pre-Christmas. Post-Christmas though he has been really consistent with his performance and being able to het on the track every session. He had a really good hit out against the Bulldogs – I was really pleased with how he performed against some quality opposition. He faces that same challenge this weekend again, the Dogs have some dangerous key forwards. With a few of our guys going down, he was really important.”

Massimo D’Ambrosio

“Mass has fitted in really well, he is a ball of energy - he almost always the first through my door to watch vision post-game and training. He’s constantly looking to do extra craft, find out how he can get better, and we love that about him. He is a natural ball-winner, he always puts himself in really good positions to get the footy. He is a beautiful kick too. Similar to Karl, if we can get the ball in his hands, he can usually make the opposition pay. We just need to find that balance of when he needs to defend versing actually testing the opposition out and make them chase him for a bit. For a small guy he competes in the air really well, it’s pleasing because he has put a lot of work into that during the summer.”

Seamus Mitchell

“Seamus caught up with the surgeon on Tuesday and he got the all clear to start contact training again. Now it’s just about how we get the best preparation into him. He is on track to be available for selection for Round 1, so we’re just weighing up whether he plays in a Box Hill practice game or just has a really big training week to try and get him physically prepped. I said a few times to him that as bad as a broken jaw is, physically your prep doesn’t change too much. He barley has missed a session of running – he was doing strides two days after getting the knock, he then went into surgery, but was back in a couple of days running, doing weights and everything. Physically I think he is in a really good spot, he just needs to make sure he has that confidence to cop a few bumps with the physical stuff. His pre-season before that was a little bit interrupted, but he got in more work then he did the previous year. He had a few niggles here and there, but he was well ahead of where he was 12 months ago. We’re in a good space and we’re excited for him to improve on what he produced last year.

Bailey Macdonald

“It was really unfortunate for Baz last month with his injury. Up to that point, he was flying in pre-season, he put on size, he was running personal bests, similar to the other second years he came along really quickly through the off-season and pre-season. It was unfortunate that he went down for a bit, but he’s back running on grass and is now going through a training phase to build his load back up. Even through the time when he wasn’t training, he was coming in and watching vision and try and still learn. From what he was producing pre-injury I'm excited about where he's going to be placed.”

Jai Serong

"Similar to Weddle, you forget he is so young. He is physically built, he is an elite endurance athlete. He can play on medium, smalls and talls. This time last year he was training as a forward and he only did the last eight weeks of the season as a defender. He is new to the group, similar to Karl. But he is always on the front foot wanting extra craft and vision. He is really hard to play against, even our forwards at training comment about it. It's a good thing to have your teammates saying those kind of things about you."

Bodie Ryan

"I really like the way Bodes goes about it. He's a bit cheeky, he sees the game really well. In his first couple of weeks here it look as though he had already done a couple of years. Again, I don't want to overload him with information because he actually makes really good defensive decisions already. He is a medium-small defender but he had a little test of playing on Jamarra Ugle-Hagan in the game just gone and he didn't look out of place playing on a genuine superstar AFL forward. I'm excited about what he could produce... I think he could be a bit of a find of the draft."

Will McCabe

"Before his injury, Will showed his capabilities. He is super athletic, tall and fast. At training we would see him launching into packs, going back with the flight. He's going to have a really bright future. It's disappointing he is not out there at the moment, but I always see him watching vision and looking for ways to get better. As a coach, you love that when you've got a player leaving no stone unturned on how they can improve when they are not physically out there. We've just got to be patient with him, it's an injury you don't want to rush. We'll try and keep him involved in the defensive group and still look for ways he can improve his footy craft and help the other defenders."

Denver Grainger-Barras

“Denver's injury was unfortunate. His development with his defensive craft was progressing, and just as games were starting to get into it and you want to do all the match practice you can because that’s where  you really get your improvement. For him to go down is quite unfortunate. He is only just filtering back into the club off the back of his surgery. We’ll sit down with him and try and work out a plan with him while he can’t do much physically on how he can still develop – whether it's his game knowledge or helping with the defensive group. He’ll still learn by watching, he will sit in on Sis’ and Scrim’s reviews to keep improving his knowledge of the game.”

James Blanck

“Blancky was tracking really well. How much he improved towards the back end of last year and over the summer was astronomical. He was developing so quickly, we were really excited about what he was going to produce this year, so to do his ACL was really disappointing for him. But even post the injury, he has been in at the club every single day – I personally wouldn’t be able to do that, I’d want some time to myself to sulk. He is doing everything possible and he hasn’t even had the surgery yet. I know he is going to attack his rehab super professionally – we’ve already started discussing things he can do throughout the season to help me and keep him involved in the backline group. I’m sure he’ll come back a better player.”