Brandon Matera expects to pinch-hit through Gold Coast's midfield this season after using a long pre-season to push his fitness to new heights.
The West Australian watched from the sidelines for much of last season after an ankle injury sustained in round 10 prematurely ended his year.
The 21-year-old used the extended lay-off to work on his endurance and showed the benefits of his first full pre-season in last week's intraclub match at Metricon Stadium in a potential sign of things to come in 2014.
Matera played on the ball in the absence of regular midfielders Gary Ablett and Harley Bennell and was one of the game's leading possession winners.
He followed up the performance with 11 disposals and a goal in last Monday night's one-point NAB Challenge win over Essendon and has been named to tackle a beefed-up Brisbane in Townsville tomorrow.
The forward said he felt physically equipped to spend prolonged periods in the midfield for the first time, predicting he would be needed to give senior teammates a breather under the AFL's new rotation cap.
"Everyone has to be heaps fitter," Matera said.
"We've been working on our aerobic base and getting that right up. Hopefully we can run out games better.
"I would hope to get a few little runs through the midfield.
"I've tried to run alongside a few of the midfielders and wingers this pre-season.
"If I get a chance up on the ball, I'll be very happy."
Matera found himself seeking answers, with injury turning his first three seasons into a stop-start affair. He has played just 39 of a possible 66 games.
The South Fremantle recruit sought advice from Gold Coast assistant coach Dean Solomon during his rehabilitation.
"He said to me the time you're out of the game when you can't actually do anything, you get more hungry to get back and you enjoy it a lot more," he said.
"It's been a long pre-season, but I've trained harder. I want to play as many games as I can now.
"I obviously miss playing. It's what I love."
All six West Australians on Gold Coast's list are capable of playing in the midfield, with last year's NAB Rising Star winner Jaeger O'Meara already there and young gun Jack Martin now in the mix.