TATYOON - David Astbury feels as though he is finally over a series of injuries that hampered his third season in the AFL and is ready for a big year ahead.
The Tatyoon export battled consistent setbacks during the 2012 season as he worked to comeback from a serious knee injury.
Astbury managed a recall into the Richmond lineup for the final two matches of the season against Port Adelaide and Essendon, but the 21-year-old said it was a long and at times frustrating journey.
"Basically what happen was when we began to build up my workload coming out of rehab I started to realise a few asymmetrics there - things weren't quite even on both sides - and I ended up getting a few soft tissue injuries come out of that," he said.
"I didn't get back into the VFL until round 12 of the AFL season, but then had an injury in my hip flexor that kept me out for a week or two and when I got back I suffered a hamstring strain which sidelined me for a few more weeks.
"It was a really slow road back, very frustrating at times, but that was something that was always going to come out of recovering from such a serious injury. I feel great now and I've grown into my body a bit more."
Despite the pain and punishment that comes with being an AFL player, during the summer Astbury is relishing his first full pre-season campaign.
He said the entire playing group hit the ground running when training resumed on November 1, with the list put through a number of tough cardio sessions.
"From day dot it was all pretty intense. We had had a few changes in our fitness department and so they were all keen to get going, so we were straight into it," he said.
"For about a month we did some really solid training in Melbourne and then in late November/early December we had a nine-day camp in Cairns which was all about heat acclimatisation. That was an experience, with the heat and humidity it was really tough going.
"We've come back now (from the Christmas/New Year break) and everyone is raring to go."
When Astbury finally made his way back into the Tigers' senior side in round 23 he was used as a floating player in both defence and as a tall forward.
The Richmond coaching panel are happy for the number 12 to find his niche at either end of the ground, and are focusing on improving specific elements of the versatile player's game.
"I have sat down with Damien (Hardwick) a couple of times during the pre-season and to be honest neither of us really know what area I am better suited to," Astbury said.
"So I am training at either end at the moment and really enjoying it, hopefully I find my spot in the NAB Cup and impress enough to get back into the senior side and be able to enjoy a big season in 2013.
"I haven't set too many goals just yet, I'm pretty much just trying to get on top of my body and get my head around pre-season training.
"I am just looking at getting through each session and I've been doing a lot of one on one work with Justin Leppitsch who is our defensive coordinator. We have been focusing on a lot of overhead stuff and it is going really well."
Plenty of faith has been shown in Astbury down at Tiger land during the early part of his career and in October he repaid that faith by signing a two-year contract extension.
Richmond football manager Craig Cameron said at the time of the announcement that he was very pleased to see the key-position prospect re-commit to the club.
"He is highly regarded, not only for his football ability, but also his excellent character," Cameron said.
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"We expect him to come on in leaps and bounds throughout 2013."
The first focus for Astbury is the NAB Cup, which for Richmond kicks off with a double header against Melbourne and North Melbourne on February 22.
"The NAB Cup is just around the corner now and I am expecting to get some good minutes in those games and hopefully stake my claim for an early call up at the start of the season," Astbury said.
"We've got a game against the Indigenous All-Stars on February 8 in Alice Springs which will be a good lead in to the NAB Cup for us.
"I am really looking forward to getting up there for that and playing against some of the country's most talented indigenous players."
Much has been said in the media about Richmond following a busy AFL trading period which saw it select a number of mature age recruits.
Astbury said with new faces at the club, including Troy Chaplin, Aaron Edwards and Chris Knights, things look on the rise this year.
"The first thing I have noticed when training with more mature aged blokes is how competitive it is, even at training," he said.
"Everyone is vying for a spot and not many guys are certain starters this time around. A few years ago we probably had more of a set team which was fairly similar each week, but with the new guys coming in it is more competitive and that is a really good thing.
"There is a lot of expectation on the NAB Cup to secure spots come the start of the season, I think it's great for the club.
"The new blokes have all fitted in really well and we are going into this year feeling pretty optimistic about our chances."