Former Bulldog Nathan Brown remembers all too well his first AFL pre-season.
It was nothing short of ‘brutal’ in the summer of 1996-97, with Terry Wallace at the helm for his first season as coach.
Brown recalled his eye-opening early days with teammate Bob Murphy on the Glory Days podcast.
“Pre-season that year, it wasn’t like you do now where the young players come in and they might do a couple of days on, a couple of days off… ease them through to Christmas,” he said.
“It was smack bang straight into it, early October.
“Scott West would pick me up – we started training at 6am, three mornings a week, Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
“And these 6am sessions were full on. You did running to start with and then a full on football session. It was 6-10am, it was brutal for four hours. And you’d do weights on your off-days.”
Star midfielder Tony Liberatore was tasked with toughening up the boy from Bendigo.
“I copped Tony Liberatore at his nastiest. He was a nasty, nasty competitor,” Brown said.
“He and Jose Romero were pitted against each other and they were this lethal, brutal combination.
“I’m this young kid with a lot of talent, with long hair, a ponytail, going alright in the practice matches.
“But they just used to smash me. They took pride in it.
“I know now looking back that Plough had told Libba that I want you to toughen up this young kid. He took a few liberties as well.
But those early lessons from the 1990 Brownlow Medallist helped lay the foundation for Brown’s 219-game AFL career.
“It made me in years to come a better player,” he said.
“Libba didn’t speak to me the whole time he was bashing me, tagging me, he didn’t speak to me. It was a baptism of fire, you had to earn your stripes.
“I still remember after the first season Libba rang me out of the blue and said you’ve got to get fitter son, you’re not fit enough. He goes, ‘I want you to come and meet me twice a week and we’re going to run up these hills out at Brimbank’.
“That was something I couldn’t believe somebody of his stature would do – a Brownlow Medallist, 31, 32 years of age.
“I owe Libba a lot for how he moulded me to become a harder player, because I had some softer edges when I was 17, 18.”