Getting back on the park is right at the forefront of Sam Draper’s mind.
In a blow to the Bombers’ tall stocks, the ruckman was limited to just one appearance in the club’s final 10 games of 2023 due to a persistent groin injury.
Undergoing surgery over the off-season, the 25-year-old is looking to give himself the best possible chance to rebound after the Christmas break and attack an important pre-season.
Speaking to the Triple M Rush Hour on Friday afternoon, Draper said his progress had steadily increased over the past fortnight.
“I had surgery eight weeks ago, so I’m feeling pretty good from that now,” Draper said.
“It was pretty slow going for the first six weeks, but (in) the last two weeks I’ve seen some really good improvements and the club’s happy with where I’m at.”
For Draper, the frustration of sitting on the sidelines throughout the second half of the season has been a key motivator in returning to full fitness.
After the challenge had been set for the playing list to hit the ground running upon returning to training, Draper feels the response has been strong from those training both at home and abroad.
“It really left a sour taste in the mouth how we finished that second half of the year, especially for myself,” Draper said.
“It was heartbreaking watching the boys out there and not being able to help them. I’m putting a lot of time into my body and making sure I can play the full season.
“I was pretty jealous (of the players on the Arizona off-season training camp), I wanted to go over. The boys said it was a really good experience.
“The standard at training has been good so far, even the older boys (returned early) in the past couple of weeks which has been great to see. They’ve been having a red-hot crack.”
A notable bonus for the Dons in 2024 will be the addition of Todd Goldstein to the list, providing welcome experience to the pairing of Draper and Nick Bryan in the ruck.
Draper is confident that he and Goldstein can gel well around the ground, even providing further opportunities as a forward that have become more prevalent over the past year.
“I think (Goldstein and I) can work really well together. He knows his stuff, he’s played over 300 games and has the all-time hit-out record, so I can definitely learn a few things,” Draper said.
“It was good for my game playing a bit more forward (last season), I feel I’ve really enjoyed not just being pigeonholed into being a ruckman.
“I’m really confident as a forward now, so that’s a good area of my game.”