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Strong pre-season gives Whitecross confidence

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 13: Brendan Whitecross of the Hawks in action during the Hawthorn Hawks training session at the Ricoh Centre, Melbourne on January 13, 2016. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Hawks utility Brendan Whitecross has enjoyed a strong pre-season.

BRENDAN Whitecross will head into 2016 knowing he’s given himself the best opportunity to succeed.

With a full pre-season behind him for the first time since 2012, the 26-year-old utility hopes his injury worries are a thing of the past.

Whitecross will have an early opportunity to impress, when the Hawks take on Carlton in Thursday night’s NAB Challenge opener at Aurora Stadium.

He said he would approach the match – and the upcoming season – with real confidence after being able to put in the hard yards over the off-season.

“It’s the first time in three years I’ve been able to start and complete a pre-season,” Whitecross told hawthornfc.com.au

“I think the last time I was able to do that was the 2011-2012 pre-season. Since then I’ve had two knee reconstructions, and missed a year in 2014, so it’s been really good to have that base underneath me of a full pre-season and the confidence coming out of that.

“I had a shoulder reconstruction on the Monday leading into the AFL grand final, it was pretty straightforward and rehab was really smooth and quick.

“The positive to come out of it was, albeit I wasn’t able to take part in the physical side of training, I was still able to start the conditioning from day one, so I’ve been able to get a really good block of work in.

“It’s certainly given me a lot of confidence going into the first NAB Challenge game and the rest of the season.”

Despite being a consistent performer at VFL level late last season, Whitecross couldn’t crack a senior berth, after four games at the start of the year.

But with a handful of spots up for grabs ahead of the season proper, he’s hoping to build a case for regular selection.

Part of that is finding his best footy, and being able to contribute to the team in a variety of ways.

“For me, it’s about getting back to where I sort of left off I guess,” Whitecross said.

“When I did my knee the first time, I was playing consistent footy, really strong footy, and being able to play across all three lines I think is really going to benefit me.

“That’s probably where I fit in if I can hold that down.

“It’s going to be hard to fight for a spot, which is a great thing for the footy club because it means we’ve got the depth, the drive and the hunger of players playing for their spots.”

After rejecting advances at the end of 2015 to re-sign with the Hawks, Whitecross knows that sealing a permanent berth won’t be an easy task.

He can see plenty of young talent coming through the ranks – but the challenge is one he’s looking forward to.

“This pre-season’s been a really good one, with a lot of players shining through – James Sicily, Tim O’Brien, Zac Webster’s had a really good training block,” Whitecross said.

“A few of our younger boys in Kieran Lovell, Kade Stewart and Blake Hardwick have had some really good pre-season training too.

“There’s a few spots up for grabs and a lot of boys fighting for them, so it will be interesting to see who shines through over the NAB Challenge.

“It’s going to be hard to fight for a spot, which is a great thing for the footy club because it means we’ve got the depth, the drive and the hunger of players playing for their spots.”

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The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs