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'It will be a big focus for me this pre-season'

Darcy Parish is focusing on his aerobic ability this pre-season

Essendon young gun Darcy Parish plans to take his running capacity to a new level this pre-season in a bid to keep pace with the competition's best midfielders.

The No.5 pick in the 2015 NAB AFL Draft has racked up 40 games in his first two seasons, but admits he was found wanting on occasion.

"Probably for me it's that repeat effort, aerobic running (that I need to work on most)," Parish told RSN927.

"It really does test me at AFL level, getting from contest to contest, so it was a big focus for me over the break to work on and it will be a big focus for me this pre-season.

"You see some of the greats of the game, how they work, and you get to play alongside some of them, like Danger (Patrick Dangerfield) and (Joel) Selwood and the likes of these guys."

Parish averaged 21.1 disposals, including 8.5 contested, last year, to go with 3.3 tackles, 3.2 clearances, five score involvements and 2.6 inside 50s.

His challenge to earn more midfield time will be even greater next season, with Greater Western Sydney recruit Devon Smith expected to eat up some of those minutes.

Essendon is also considering using ex-Bulldog Jake Stringer as a bigger-bodied midfielder, with Zach Merrett, Smith, David Zaharakis, Andy McGrath and Parish lacking size.

Parish, who spent part of his break holidaying in Bali, was thrilled to see Smith, Adam Saad and Stringer join him at Tullamarine, but was most excited about the latter for his "wow factor".

The 20-year-old will be among the first-to-fourth-year Bombers returning to training on Monday and heading to Darwin for a training camp.

"They haven't given too much away (about the Darwin trip), but it's going to be a good opportunity to bond as a group again and show some leadership qualities along the way," he said.

"The cultural awareness up there will be pretty cool … but they haven't really given too much away, so look out maybe. We'll be sweating up there for sure."

Another young Essendon footballer preparing to return is Aaron Francis, who was drafted one selection after Parish two years ago but has only five games under his belt.

Francis unsuccessfully requested a trade home to South Australia in the NAB AFL Trade Period, but Parish said he was "in good spirits".

"I'm pretty close with Aaron – we've been pretty good mates his first couple of years – and obviously he went through a bit of a difficult time there," he said.

"But I caught up yesterday with him, just before we head back, and he's in good spirits, he's ready to go for the pre-season, so we're looking forward to seeing what he can bring to the side this year.

"He's a really exciting talent and when he's on, he's one of the exciting players for our club, anyway.

"There were a few training sessions last year where he did show those capabilities and everyone sits back and goes, 'Wow', so hopefully he can bring that week in, week out."

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