AARON vandenBerg’s injury history is no secret.
He’s played just seven AFL games in the past three season’s and hadn’t taken to the park for 12 months; until Saturday.
The 27-year-old returned from a lingering foot issue to help the Dees defeat Adelaide in their first Marsh Community Series game – one he thoroughly enjoyed.
“It was great,” vandenBerg told Melbourne Media post-game.
“I was probably off the pace a little bit early, but as the game wore on I started to find my feet again.”
vandenBerg, who has proved to be a crucial member of Melbourne’s team in his 35 career games, had 19 disposals and five tackles at Casey Fields, and importantly, got through the match unscathed.
“Actually the best I’ve felt in as long as I can remember,” he said.
“We’ve been monitoring my program very intently this pre-season.
“No doubt there’s been some ebbs and flows, there always is with pre-season, but I’ve got no complaints.
“This is the best I’ve felt in three or four years, so if we can keep the momentum going we should be good.”
The troubles vandenBerg has faced means he will have to continue to monitor his foot for the remainder of his playing future, but he’s confident he’s in a position where he can attack 2020 with some freedom.
“We’re going to have to be smart,” he said.
“I’ve only played seven games in three years, as I’ve said many times, and with that comes being pretty pragmatic and smart about my season.
“The main thing is I can get out there and contribute to the team – that’s the only thing I care about.”
And he certainly did that this weekend.
vandenBerg has a genuine presence around the contest, hitting the opposition bodies hard and helping Melbourne around the stoppages.
“We’re a good contest-based team so if I can support that in any way I’ll try my best,” he said.
The Dees were the better side in windy conditions, with plenty to take away from their first hit-out of the year.
“It’s very important for us that we start to lay that brand of footy that we’re known for playing and that begins in pre-season,” vandenBerg said.
“It doesn’t matter if we're playing an intra-club, a pre-season game or Round 1 – we’ve just got to make sure we bring that right mentality every single time we play.”