Nik Cox says the Bombers’ early start to pre-season is a clear indication of their desire to fast-track their improvement and get a jump on the competition ahead of the 2022 season.
The first-to-five-year players, plus a sprinkling of senior heads including captain Dyson Heppell, completed their first official training session at the NEC Hangar today, with the rest of the squad set to return by November 29.
While the Bombers will train on a part-time basis until Christmas, they will have a two-week head start on their opposition.
Cox said the early start was part of a pact between the players after their elimination-final loss to the Western Bulldogs.
“It was set in stone from the moment we left (finals). We said we wanted to get back into it as soon as we can, there’s still a bit of fire in the belly from that final that we lost,” Cox said.
“It’s part of our program. We want to get back to training as soon as we can. We’re looking to build into a great season next year, and this is the best way to do it.
“We’ve got a good young group here, and a few of the older boys are stepping in as well to give a bit of experience with our training. I’m excited to be back.”
Having missed out on a finals appearance in his debut season, there’s extra motivation for Cox, who is set to complete his first full AFL pre-season.
The No.8 draft pick played 20 consecutive games in 2021, but tired in the back half of the season to be an unused medical substitute in the Bombers’ final two games.
“It’s a big driver of mine. I don’t want to fall off (again) like I did. I felt like I was getting a bit tired towards the end of the year, and it didn’t help having no footy the year before,” Cox said.
“That’s what’s good about having a full pre-season, I’m able to build my body to be able to play a full season, diversify my roles and become a better player.”
“I want to keep the ability to be swung through the midfield, down back, up forward. I’ll float through a number of roles throughout pre-season. Hopefully I can build into a key-position (player) down the track, but we’ll see.”
Cox said he would benefit from the guidance of his experienced teammates, with senior players Heppell, Andrew McGrath and Darcy Parish joining the youngsters on the track today.
He said the leadership from Heppell, who could enter his sixth season as skipper, was particularly inspiring.
“It (early return) just shows his character. He’s an unbelievable leader, the best leader I’ve experienced in my time,” Cox said.
“It’s awesome to have him out there. He’s a wise head, trains so well and with such intensity. He doesn’t need to be back yet, and he’s here doing it and setting the tone for us.”