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Hogan in 'super nick': Mathews

Ben Guthrie  December 4, 2017 11:56 AM

MELBOURNE forward Jesse Hogan has come back in "super nick" and is ready stamp himself as one of the AFL's premier key forwards, assistant coach Ben Mathews says.

Hogan had as challenging a year as any player in recent memory in 2017, dealing with the loss of his father to cancer, being diagnosed with testicular cancer himself at just 22 and suffering a broken collarbone only a month after he made his return from that illness.

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Jesse Hogan in action during a training session last week. (Photo: Matthew Goodroe)

Mathews said the club's coaching staff had been ecstatic with the shape in which Hogan presented himself following his return to pre-season last month.

"It's a credit to him. He's come back in super nick," Mathews told AFL.com.au.

"He's completed his off-season program, he's in main training and doing things at a really high level."

The power forward booted 20 goals from 10 games last season, with his biggest haul coming in round 22 when he nailed six majors against the Brisbane Lions.

Hogan has noticeably slimmed down and Mathews said the key forward's attitude and desire for hard work had been evident over the last month.

"From our point of view, he looks like he's ready to come and compete every session," Mathews said.

"His body language is strong. I know he's been criticised in the past externally about his body language at times, he's working really hard on that.

"That starts at training. He wants to earn the respect of his teammates every session, as opposed to just on game day."

Hogan's competitiveness was on show at training on Wednesday last week when he went head-to-head in a string of marking contests against Adelaide recruit Jake Lever.

With the ball kicked between them in a 'markers-up' type scenario, the competition between the two was evident as the contest kicked up a notch.

Mathews said Hogan would have a focus on improving his functional strength, with a particular emphasis on being able to push off big opponents and create separation in marking contests.

"All those key defenders like (Alex) Rance and (Heath) Grundy, they'll maul you in the contest," Mathews said.

"That's probably one area that Jess needs to get a little stronger in, in the gym to create some separation off those big defenders.

"But his ace is his work rate. When he's fully fit he's one of the better runners in our squad.

"So, if he can combine both we'll see a really valuable player for us and a real beast in the forward line."