Aiden Bonar is no stranger to a strong pre-season, with his preparation ahead of the 2021 campaign seeing him become an integral part of North Melbourne’s defence, before an ankle injury derailed the second half of his year.
Sitting third in the Syd Barker Medal after Round 5, Bonar delivered strong performances against Geelong's Patrick Dangerfield and Port Adelaide's Ollie Wines before his injury in Round 8 against Collingwood.
He played only three more games, undergoing ankle surgery before returning to the side in Round 21.
Bonar says his pre-season focus has shifted from the aerobic work he prioritised last year.
“I definitely have some goals in place to try and get me into a good spot ahead of what’s hopefully a big season,” Bonar told North Media.
“There’s a bit of a different philosophy with the new strength coach (Kevin White) coming in. There’s more of a focus around power and speed.
“Jy (Simpkin) was a big help in helping me push myself last year. He’s not back yet but I’m definitely old enough and strong enough to get going myself and motivate myself to be better.
“We were really lucky in being able to work with the new strength coaches for about five weeks over the off-season, which meant we were able to build those relationships and that trust really early.”
At 22, Bonar is by no means a veteran of the game, but in a developing defensive group his experience is expected to be valuable next season.
With the likes of Flynn Perez, Matt McGuinness, Atu Bosenavulagi and Lachie Young all pressing their cases for a spot in the best 22, and new draftees Miller Bergman, Josh Goater and Jackson Archer joining the fray, North’s defensive line has a rare opportunity to build together.
“We’ve got a really young group of defenders coming through in the back half of the ground," Bonar said.
"We’re at that point where we all need to help each other out so we can all improve as a group.
“It’s unreal to be back, and all the new lads coming in this week has kept the standards really high, and when the standards are high I definitely enjoy it more.
“All the first-year players, not just defenders, seem really keen to learn. I’ve met them all and they’ve really got around and started building relationships with the lads.
“They’re a really sociable bunch, and it looks like they’re a great bunch of fellas who’ll fit into the group well.
“If we can all do that over pre-season, then it’ll help the side moving forward."