LACHIE Hunter says any premiership hangover concerns were quelled when the Western Bulldogs returned for pre-season in better condition than 12 months ago.
Coach Luke Beveridge has a bunch of stars to slot back into his flag-winning line-up and with Footscray winning the VFL title a healthy selection crush looms in 2017.
Hunter and 2015 All-Australian Jake Stringer cut their holidays short, completing a series of private training sessions in a sign the historic flag celebrations will not hinder next year.
“Me and Jakey were in ‘Fat Club’ last year, so we did a bit of running together and came back all right this year,” Hunter said.
“We based ourselves at Newport athletics track. He’s (Stringer) got a bit of a history of not coming back in the greatest nick.
“Fitness was the main focus and we ramped up kicking towards the end.”
Onballer Luke Dahlhaus joined a few of the 40-minute workouts while Hunter said Lukas Webb had been the standout at Whitten Oval.
Webb was converted into an inside midfielder in 2016, while he and Bailey Dale have noticeably bulked up as they hope to crack the best 22.
Captain Bob Murphy (knee), Stewart Crameri (suspension), Travis Cloke (trade), Marcus Adams (foot), Lin Jong and Matthew Suckling all missed the flag but should be available for Round 1.
DOGS ON TRACK: MORE PICTURES FROM BULLDOGS TRAINING
Mitch Wallis (leg) and Jack Redpath (knee) are also set to return to full health during the season.
Hunter said Cloke’s impact in match simulation showed he would add another element to the Dogs’ game plan.
“(Cloke’s) a big presence down forward, which we didn’t really have a great deal of last year,” Hunter said.
“It’s just great to have someone to kick to, even though it’s only been match play and things like that.
“There’s that clear bailout kick now if we need it.”
Crameri has been near the front of most of the Dogs’ running trials and could partner Cloke, Stringer and Tom Boyd in a lethal attack.
Webb (15 games) and Dale (14 games) were members of the 2014 draft class which minted three premiership players — Toby McLean, Caleb Daniel and Zaine Cordy.
Hunter, 22 last week, said it was obvious plenty of Bulldogs had cashed in their time off for training.
“I think the nick the boys have come back in is better than last year or the year before,” he said.
“No one can see what you’re doing when the doors are closed and you’re on holidays. So for everyone to come back how they have shows really good signs.
“We’ll have to wait for games to see if anything’s transferred.”
Hunter, one of just four Dogs to play all 26 games this year, admitted it was “kind of impossible” to keep a normal vibe after breaking a 62-year premiership drought.
“There’s clearly a different feeling because we’re going in as the No.1 in many ways,” Hunter said.
“There’s a bit of a different feeling, but you’ve got to take the same attitude in.”
The star wingman said Murphy was doing mostly straight-line drills as fitness staff slowly integrate him back into full training.
The Bulldogs returned to the track about five weeks after the 10 non-finalists and Hunter said that could prove a blessing come September.
“When we get back (from Christmas break) we’ve got another month of solid training,” he said.
“And if anything you’ll be a bit fresher come the end of the year, because you don’t have that four months of training before you start.”
As for his premiership medal?
“Yeah, it’s actually sitting on top of the microwave at the minute,” Hunter said. “I need to get it framed, but it’s on the microwave collecting dust.”