Star midfielder Devon Smith says teammate and close friend Jake Stringer is in the best shape he's ever been as a Bomber.
Stringer, who has booted 65 goals from 40 games with Essendon after crossing over from the Western Bulldogs at the end of 2017, barely missed a session over pre-season, shaving more than 20 seconds off his personal best in the two-kilometre time trial.
He took that form into round one, hitting the scoreboard five times (2.3) in the Bombers' low-scoring win over the Dockers.
While Stringer has impressed in the red and black, Smith said he expected the 2015 All Australian to take his game to the next level when the AFL season restarts.
"Right now, he’s in a great spot," Smith said.
"He’s just had a new child, little River. I’ve been doing bits and pieces of training with him (during the lockdown). I still text him most days and he’s mentally and physically in the best shape since I’ve seen him at the football club, so hopefully over the next two to three years, he really comes on the scene and becomes the player we know he can be."
Speaking as a guest on the next episode of Dodcast, which will be released on Tuesday, Smith detailed the pair's long-standing relationship and the role he played in luring Stringer to join him at Essendon during the 2017 trade period.
Their friendship began in 2011 while on a camp in Europe for the AIS-AFL Academy, with Smith (Geelong Falcons) and Stringer (Bendigo Pioneers) among the Vic Country intake.
"I’ve got a funny photo of Jakey and I. We’ve both got peroxide in our hair at 17 years old. We’d both been chosen for the AIS team and we roomed together. He was a funny, dumb kid from Bendigo back then. Unfortunately, that was when he broke his leg, so he didn’t get to come on the trip to Turkey, which I was flat about," Smith said.
"When there was conversation about him coming to Essendon, I was already coming, and I remember thinking, gee I’d love to play with him again. So I sent him a message. I hadn’t spoken to him in a long time. Obviously they beat us in the prelim in 2016, so I was still a bit flat about that, and he still reminds me about that every second day."
Stay tuned for the sixth episode of Dodcast on Tuesday, as Smith shares insights into:
- The bizarre twist to his search for a new club in 2017
- A last-minute, godfather offer from a rival club
- The first words from Adrian Dodoro that left him perplexed
- Why he chose Essendon
- What he desperately wants to achieve