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Melbourne Football Club

Who's starring on the track?

Who's burning? 

Midfielder/forward Riley Knight has turned plenty of heads with his performances on the training track over the summer. He took out the Crows' first 2km time trial as he attempts to force his way into the club's best 22. "His running patterns and his approach to pre-season in terms of his fitness look great," Crows defender Rory Laird said. "He's had a bad run with injuries previously so it's great he's been able to stay out on the track. There's been a few others, too. Curtly Hampton has been going really well, Cam Ellis-Yolmen's training really well, too." Hampton, who played the majority of his football with Greater Western Sydney across the half-back line, is aiming to move into the midfield. Ellis-Yolmen spent two weeks training in the US during the off-season to build up his fitness base. 

Who's not?
A hamstring injury has slowed down midfield gun Brad Crouch's progress in recent weeks. Defenders Luke Brown, Kyle Cheney and Alex Keath, along with wingman Paul Seedsman, have all been on modified training programs as they recover from adductor injuries. Key forward Josh Jenkins is working his way back from ankle surgery, while forward Tom Lynch is recovering from a knee operation. Veteran midfielder Scott Thompson has still been getting in plenty of running even though a shoulder injury has limited the amount of contact work he can do. Draftee Elliott Himmelberg is easing his way back from a leg injury. - Lee Gaskin 

Who's burning
He's already one of the club's most important players, and Harris Andrews has trained accordingly this pre-season. The key defender, who recently turned 20, is among the leaders in most running sessions and also added considerable size to his wiry frame. Another key position player, forward Michael Close, is now 12 months back from an ACL injury and tearing up the run sessions. Tom Rockliff is noticeably leaner and has improved his running, while Allen Christensen is also in excellent shape, having the best pre-season of his three at the Lions.

Who's not
For the second pre-season in succession, poor Sam Skinner has been confined to running after rupturing his ACL last July. His fitness is improving, but he's months away from playing. Dayne Beams has been eased back into a full workload after knee surgery curtailed his 2016, but he'll be doing everything with the main group in the coming weeks and has been running strongly. - Michael Whiting

Who’s burning?
Blues skipper Marc Murphy has copped considerable criticism over his leadership and performance in recent seasons, a frustrating period hindered by a series of injuries, including knee, shoulder and ankle issues. However he could be set for a change of fortune. Murphy is enjoying his first injury-free pre-season in five years, sparking renewed hope that the midfielder who once rivalled predecessor Chris Judd as Carlton's top player might return to his brilliant best. The 29-year-old says he is turning back the clock, enthusing that he's moving with such freedom that he feels like he's 22 again. What the Blues would do for a 22-year-old Marc Murphy…

Who’s not?
The club's premier midfielder, Patrick Cripps, is just two-to-three weeks away from returning to full training and remains on track to play in round one as he overcomes a stress reaction in his back that has sidelined him since November. Ruckman Andrew Phillips has been placed on the long-term injury list and is expected to be laid low for eight weeks with a stress reaction in his left foot. Irish backman Ciaran Byrne is still eyeing a July return after undergoing a knee reconstruction. - Ben Collins

Who's burning?
Taylor Adams' presence was sorely missed when he was injured last season. Despite playing just 14 games, the 23-year-old finished sixth in the Magpies best and fairest. He has returned determined to avoid such frustration in 2017, hitting the track hard. A fierce worker, Adams has been leading the way with both his voice and actions as he emerges as one of the team's strongest leaders. Two Collingwood players returning from knee reconstructions, Jackson Ramsay and Matt Scharenberg, are also making good progress.

Who's not?
Daniel Wells has had an interrupted pre-season but is back on track, while father-son recruit Callum Brown has been struck down with glandular fever. Ben Reid has made good progress after a knee operation and expects to be fit for the start of the season. Tom Langdon has back issues while the club's first pick in the NAB AFL Draft is building strength in his shoulder. - Peter Ryan  

Who's burning?
All the attention has been on Essendon's group of returning players, in particular midfield pair Jobe Watson and Dyson Heppell. Both have had a strong summer, and Watson looks primed to have another season dominating at the stoppages. Pleasingly though for the Bombers, there's also plenty of youngsters who have shone ahead of the start of the season. Kyle Langford looks to have stepped up his game as a midfielder, Darcy Parish only appears to have improved since his excellent debut season, and the club has been pleased with Martin Gleeson's development as a rebounding half-back. 

Who's not?
It looms as a later start to the season for ruckman Tom Bellchambers, who is again battling a knee injury this summer. The Bombers have some fitness issues with their tall department, as Cale Hooker and Michael Hartley overcome hamstring problems, while Michael Hurley rolled his ankle at training on Friday. In better signs, key forward Joe Daniher joined in match practice this week after overcoming a knee complaint. - Callum Twomey

Who's burning?
All eyes have been on Nat Fyfe upon his return from a broken leg, and the good news for Dockers fans is that the superstar midfielder is in terrific shape. The 25-year-old hasn't missed a session this pre-season. He hit the ground running after an intensive two-week Los Angeles training camp in November and finished fifth in both of Freo's 3km time trials. Fyfe has been typically dominant in match simulation around stoppages, but the Brownlow medallist has also spent significant time stationed in attack, perhaps pointing to an expanded role in a new-look Freo forward line in 2017. A slick Bradley Hill, fit-looking Cam McCarthy and veteran David Mundy deserve honourable mentions for impressive pre-seasons.

Who's not?
Former Gold Coast star Harley Bennell is still working his way back from a setback with his "good" left calf last November. Bennell is steadily building his running program, though, and the Dockers are confident he will play "a great deal" this year after missing all of last season. Ruckman Aaron Sandilands (calf) and young defender Alex Pearce (leg) have suffered recent injury setbacks. - Travis King

Who’s burning?
Geelong is looking to ease the reliance on Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield through the midfield and the pre-season form of Scott Selwood and Sam Menegola, who would help in that ambition, has been encouraging. Scott Selwood is free of the ankle issues that dogged him during much of 2016 and has been training unimpeded. Selwood's hardness at the contest in match simulation and his endurance (he finished top five in the Cats' 15-minute run time trial) has him well-placed for a productive season. Menegola, who was a revelation during the backend of 2016, has gone to another level as he continues to add layers to his game. Youngsters Nakia Cockatoo and Darcy Lang are others to have impressed on the training track, as they look to establish themselves in the best 22.  

Who’s not?
Luckless small forward Cory Gregson had more surgery on his troublesome foot and will miss the start of the home and away season. Important midfielder Mark Blicavs has battled a knee issue over the pre-season and has spent time on a modified training schedule. Rookie James Parsons had been tracking nicely and putting himself in contention for an early season debut until he suffered an unfortunate mishap when he broke his foot during a recent four-day break. - Ben Guthrie

Who's burning
When you go to a new club you want to make a good impression straight away, and ruckman Jarrod Witts has done just that with a terrific pre-season. The former Magpie is the tallest player at the Suns, but he is also among the better runners and is honing in on being first-choice ruck. Third-year forward Peter Wright is another big man running as strongly as the midfielders – while adding even more strength to his 203cm frame – and injury-prone defender Rory Thompson is in the midst of his longest streak of continuity for years, and is reaping the rewards. Alex Sexton and draftee Ben Ainsworth have also been among the most impressive Suns.

Who's not
While Witts has been tearing up the track, fellow ruck Tom Nicholls has struggled since sustaining a calf injury early in the pre-season. Veteran Michael Rischitelli is ahead of schedule in his recovery from his ACL injury, but has been restricted to straight-line running at this stage. He's expected to play in May. - Michael Whiting

Who’s burning?
Last year's club champion Toby Greene is flying, and has no signs of being satisfied with his breakout 2016 season. The 23-year-old has looked sharp during match simulation work, and looks as fit as ever after finishing around the top five in both of the club's 3km time trials either side of the Christmas break. Greene is set to reach the 100-game milestone early in the season and with the arrival of former Tiger Brett Deledio - who has also been impressive at his new club – the clever forward looks set to again be a damaging player for the Giants.

Who’s not?
Star forward Steve Johnson is still yet to be given the green light to rejoin the main group on a full-time basis after thumb surgery, but the veteran has been able to do plenty of running, and should be right to play in the latter part of the JLT Community Series. - Adam Curley

Who's burning?
If you listen to the talk out of the Hawks, they're all up and about, but then again, so are all 18 teams at this time of the year. What would please the Hawks is that they parted with their first draft pick without a moment's hesitation last October for emerging Sydney midfielder Tom Mitchell and he is having a great summer. "Tom Mitchell is probably the most competitive person I've seen at every stoppage drill," said former skipper Luke Hodge, and there's no better praise. Hodge himself looks trim and primed for a great season. Midfielder Jonathan O'Rourke is another who has enjoyed a fine summer, while youngsters Teia Miles and Dallas Willsmore are in the frame for senior selection

Who's not?
Ruckman Jon Ceglar continues his rehabilitation from last August's ACL injury and won't be on the track any time soon, while boom recruit Jaeger O'Meara has yet to take part in full match simulation work. But the plan has always been to bring him along at pace and a debut in the JLT Community Series seems unlikely. - Ashley Browne

Who’s burning?
Melbourne appears to be a team ready to contend for finals and Billy Stretch wants to be part of that charge. The speedy midfielder has taken great strides this pre-season, adding bulk to his frame and improving his ability to win contested footy. Emerging backman Oscar McDonald has been training strongly and has benefited from another pre-season in the gym. Star forward Jesse Hogan has trimmed down considerably and has enhanced his running power over summer. Jayden Hunt, who enjoyed a breakout season in 2016, looks like going to another level in 2017, after being one of the standout players in match simulation training.

Who’s not?
Dean Kent
has been laid low by a back complaint and has been placed on a modified training program for the next month. Key midfielder Dom Tyson will look to increase his workload over the next few weeks after dislocating his patella tendon before Christmas. Cam Pedersen has dropped 10 kilograms after recovering from shoulder surgery in the off-season and is back in full training alongside Tom McDonald. Youngsters Mitch Hannan (shoulder) and Lachlan Filipovic (Achilles) are being eased back into contact-based training. - Ben Guthrie

Who’s burning?
Small forward Lindsay Thomas has been a standout at Arden Street this summer. The 28-year-old looks noticeably leaner and has run strongly in time trials and interval sessions. There has long been talk about Thomas spending more time in North's midfield and he has dominated in the centre square this pre-season during match simulation. The Roos have used the two-time club leading goalkicker almost exclusively in attack previously, but he has been so impressive at clearances and with his passing in general play that he could become a regular member of North's on-ball division in 2017.

Who’s not?
Ruckman Todd Goldstein (ankle) has been on a restricted program since Christmas, but North is confident he will be fit for round one. Scott Thompson (adductor), Majak Daw (knee) and Sam Wright (ankle) all resumed running on the track recently and hope to play some part in the JLT Community Series. Ben Brown (knee) is unlikely to play any pre-season games but could yet be fit for round one, while Jed Anderson (shoulder) will be sidelined for the next two months after undergoing surgery this week. Taylor Garner (hip) and Jy Simpkin (leg) are also expected to have delayed starts to the season after being conservatively managed over the summer. - Nick Bowen

Who's burning?
Midfielder/forward Karl Amon looks primed to have a big year after returning in great shape. Amon was in and out of the Power's side last season when he played just 15 games. "Over a long period of time, he's built his body and he's really built his skill-set," the Power's midfield manager Michael Voss told afl.com.au. "The two things he will bring for us is his running capacity and his ability to use the footy and break lines. Over time, you develop the consistency of being able to do that. We've seen that consistency in his training performance." Ruckman Paddy Ryder hasn't missed a beat in his return to football, while Nathan Krakouer has also performed strongly over the summer.

Who's not?
Key forward Charlie Dixon is working his way back to full fitness after off-season ankle surgery. Angus Monfries is also in the rehab group after a shoulder injury late last year. Monfries missed last season serving a 12-month anti-doping suspension from his time at Essendon. Promising ruckman Dougal Howard is slowly making his way back from a torn ACL and should be right to return to football midway through this year. - Lee Gaskin

Who's burning? 
Second-year blues shouldn't be a problem for Daniel Rioli after an excellent pre-season. The 19-year-old showed promising signs in his debut season and while he has looked good on the track, his leadership has made him a standout. Rioli has mentored some of the club's draftees and has taken a special interest in Shai Bolton. Defender Dylan Grimes has battled injury troubles in the past but his body has held firm throughout this preparation. Running defender Oleg Markov should build on an impressive debut late last season after a strong effort in the time trial for the Tigers' younger players early this year.

Who's not?
Star forward Jack Riewoldt has been compromised this pre-season after a right ankle reconstruction and two bouts of surgery on the little finger on his right hand. Ex-Sun Dion Prestia had a slow start to pre-season after having his 2016 ended by a knee operation. Ben Griffiths and Corey Ellis had groin issues, tough defender Steve Morris is recovering from a knee reconstruction and young onballer Jack Graham is alongside him in the rehab group after a hamstring injury. The Tigers expect the draftee to join the main group soon. - Dinny Navaratnam

Who's burning? 
After struggling last year to make an impact matching his serious talent, Jack Billings looks set to consistently deliver the form he has shown only in glimpses thus far. The 21-year-old has been involved in full training this pre-season, something he has not always been able to do. Daniel McKenzie has improved his running and should cement a spot along half-back. Another to catch the eye at training has been Blake Acres. The West Australian looks poised to take the next step, with his big body sure to come in handy if he spends more time in the centre square.

Who's not?
 
Key defender Jake Carlisle only returned to full training recently after hip surgery early last year. A shoulder reconstruction had confined tough onballer Luke Dunstan to running, but he was involved in match simulation in the new year. The club expects young backman Hugh Goddard to play early in the season as he recovers from a ruptured left Achilles tendon, while a broken bone in his left foot has hampered recruit Jack Steele. - Dinny Navaratnam

Who’s burning?
Despite suffering a significant knee injury in last year's Grand Final loss to the Western Bulldogs that hampered his off-season, new vice-captain Dan Hannebery returned to training in fantastic shape, and blitzed the Swans' 3km time trial in December. The star midfielder told AFL.com.au that a combination of no alcohol and a quality rehabilitation program was the secret behind his outstanding return to the track, despite not being able to run for a month after last season. "I set myself a goal of wanting to come back and not just float through the sessions, I wanted to train with a real purpose, because if you come back in poor condition, you ruin a big chunk of the pre-season," he said. 

Who’s not?
Surgery to fix compartment syndrome in his lower legs has been a setback for young goalsneak Tom Papley, and he's still some weeks away from rejoining the main group. The 20-year-old has been limited to the gym and is unlikely to play any part in the JLT Community Series. - Adam Curley

Who's burning?
Splitting the best is no easy task. Reigning club champion Luke Shuey has been red-hot in match simulation drills and among the best runners, while boom recruit Sam Mitchell's impact on the Eagles' ball movement with his elite skills and vision has been enormous – not to mention his leadership around the group. Meanwhile, Lewis Jetta and Jack Redden have bounced back from disappointing 2016 campaigns with standout pre-seasons and were among the best in recent intra-club hit-outs, both finding plenty of the ball. Veteran Drew Petrie's work ethic at training has been remarkable and he is on target to play round one against former club North Melbourne, while trimmed-down draftee Willie Rioli is also in the mix to debut following some electric displays on the track.

Who's not?
Eagles ruckmen Nic Naitanui (ACL) and Scott Lycett (PCL) are at very different stages of their recoveries from long-term knee injuries. Naitanui has started running and is building the strength around his knee as he aims for a late-season return, while Lycett is improving by the week and progressing into more ball-work as he eyes an comeback in the early home and away rounds. Liam Duggan's pre-season has been interrupted by a hamstring complaint. - Travis King

Who's burning?  
Skipper Robert Murphy believes he'll play the majority of the JLT Community Series and round one of premiership season after few problems in his return from a knee reconstruction. Recruit Travis Cloke looks slimmer and ready to prove he still has plenty to offer at senior level following the key forward's disappointing end to his time at Collingwood. Third-year wingman Bailey Dale has added bulk to his once slender frame and looks set to add to his 14 career games. A beautiful kick and mover, the Edithvale-Aspendale product is tailor-made for Luke Beveridge's 'fast footy' gameplan.

Who's not?
Versatile playmaker Matt Suckling didn't start running until after Christmas due to an Achilles problem that robbed him of a spot in the Dogs' 2016 premiership side. The former Hawk must be in doubt for the start of the season proper. Key forward Jack Redpath and utility Josh Prudden are still in the rehab group as they continue their returns from ACL tears. - Ryan Davidson