Rising star Aaron Naughton’s has undoubtedly made his mark – at both ends of the ground – in his first three years with the Western Bulldogs.
He’s done that without a full pre-season under his belt.
In 2021, the 21-year-old is excited to show the footy world what he can do with a complete training block under his belt.
Groin issues curtailed his first pre-season, with knee setbacks the next two.
But Naughton has finally had a good run through the summer months and is already noticing the difference.
“Coming into the AFL, I had some groin injuries and then a few surgeries in my second and third years,” he told SEN on Wednesday.
“To be able to complete a pre-season and to be out training on the track at the best time of the year with the sun out, it just feels nice.
“From training so much in the pre-season, I’m just feeling more physically strong and probably my endurance is the thing that’s really stepped up because I’ve actually been able to be out on the track and train.
“Other years I’ve been trying to catch up and build that fitness for round one, where now I’ve got that body of work behind me.”
Naughton spent 2018 in defence, before swinging forward and kicking 47 goals from 35 games the past two seasons.
Teammate Josh Dunkley believes he’s ready to take another step forward.
“Aaron Naughton’s been going really well,” he said.
“He’s looking really good on the offensive end, so he’s probably our ace at the moment.
“Hopefully no-one can stop him marking contested balls – he’s going to be a powerful asset for us moving forward.”
For Naughton, he’s excited to be back in Melbourne with the prospect of playing in front of the Bulldog faithful.
A hip knock saw him miss last week’s scratch match against Hawthorn, but he’s due back against Melbourne for the AAMI Community Series game on Monday as he gets ready for round one.
“I was a bit sore and we played it safe with that, but I’ll definitely be out there against Melbourne come Monday,” Naughton said.
“We’ll see how we go. We’re treating it like a round one clash to hit the season running so it will be a full outing for us.
“It will be good to finally run out there in round one and actually have some fans there. It’s been a while, so to have the Bulldogs members and supporters there is going to be awesome because we’ve basically missed it for a whole year.”