KEY forward/ruckman Mitch Clark has set his sights on playing in Melbourne’s NAB Challenge campaign in February.
The Demons play Richmond at Etihad Stadium on February 14 and Geelong at TIO Traeger Park in Alice Springs on February 28.
The 26-year-old played just four matches in 2013 – his most recent coming in Melbourne’s first of two wins for the year against Greater Western Sydney at the MCG in round four – after he again succumbed to problematic foot injury.
But the former Lion, now entering his third year with the Demons, said he was eager to play before the season proper against St Kilda at Etihad Stadium on March 22.
“I’ll be putting my hand up [to play in the NAB Challenge] and I’d definitely like to play some footy before round one, so I’d imagine I’d be ready to go,” he told melbournefc.com.au.
Clark said his pre-season had been positive, after a frustrating couple of seasons ruined by injury at the Demons.
“It’s been good so far. I went away in the holidays and got away and cleared the head a little bit after a tough season last year,” he said.
“I’m just feeling really refreshed and excited for 2014 and I’ve been able to get through a few sessions now, which is good. I just want to get through to Christmas and then have a bit of a break again and then get going for round one.”
Clark said his foot injury had tested his resolve, but he made genuine progress over the pre-season.
“It’s been a long haul [and] probably a bit longer than I would’ve liked, but that’s the way it goes sometimes,” he said.
“The foot’s feeling really good at the moment – touch wood. I’ve been able to train with the boys since the start of pre-season and the medical staff have been really good in managing me through.
“[With] Roosy coming in, he has been really understanding of where I’m at. I’m just trying to build up to Christmas and tick that off and then start again after Christmas.”
Clark said one of the things he couldn’t wait for next year was lining up with fellow key forward Chris Dawes and young gun Jesse Hogan for the first time.
“It’s exciting. I’m really looking forward to the day that all three of us get on the track and do some work together,” he said.
“Dawesy is coming back from a knee injury and he should be ready to go after Christmas.
“Hopefully after Christmas, Dawesy, Jesse and myself can really put some solid sessions together and a build a combination with some of the forward guys and play some consistent footy together and cause some headaches.”
But mostly, Clark said he was simply looking forward to getting back on the park in 2014.
“It sounds pretty boring, but I just want to contribute and be out there as much as possible, so I’m just really looking forward to playing footy again with the boys,” he said.“I just really want to be a part of it.”