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Wood eyes round one

Marc McGowan  December 18, 2017 1:35 PM

Talent-rich North Melbourne forward Mason Wood's 2018 goal is simple: he just wants to play in round one.

The 24-year-old, who is contracted at Arden St for another three seasons, has never been part of the Roos' season-opening side in his five years at the club.

Wood's list of ailments includes a fractured knee and a medial ligament problem before hamstring, knee and calf setbacks ruined his 2017 campaign.

He was also stuck behind Drew Petrie, Jarrad Waite, Ben Brown and Aaron Black in 2014 and 2015 and played mostly in the VFL, so he enters next season with a modest games tally of 26.

That hasn't stopped the external or internal hype about 192cm Wood's potential since booting three goals on debut against the Demons three years ago.

His 24 disposals, 10 marks, 12 score involvements and 2.3 in North's stunning upset of Adelaide in round seven this past season even delivered him a Brownlow Medal vote.

Wood's teammates once playfully mocked him as the "pre-season king" who couldn't make it past Christmas, but he hopes a new summer training focus will put that to rest.

"I've always been very goal-orientated and wanting to do really well in the testing and all that kind of stuff," he told reporters.

"But it's been about me being able to make that round one side and be fit for the whole year.

"I've taken a little bit of the foot off the pedal (this pre-season) for a few things and making sure the body is as good as it can be at this time of the year and moving forward."

Wood's aerobic capacity has enabled him to play on the wing in the past, but he plans to be a forward fixture in the foreseeable future.

He rates the Kangaroos' attack, including fellow talls Brown and Waite and dangerous pair Taylor Garner and Kayne Turner, the equal of any team when it is up and going.

That quartet played together just four times this year.

"Having an interrupted season early on and then to the backend as well, I just don't think anyone can produce their best footy off the back of what I have missed," Wood said.

"I missed eight weeks at the start of the year last year, then coming in virtually nulls out a pre-season, so it would be nice to make it all the way through and see what a fit, full pre-season could do for me."

The scepticism about North's prospects next year hasn't reached Wood, who has a finals appearance firmly in his sights.

"We're not here to make up the numbers. We're here to play finals, so top eight and then go from there," he said.

"Everyone starts 0-0 at the start of the year, so (we will try to) punch out as many wins as we can early on and go from there."