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VB back on top

Katrina Gill  January 4, 2016 1:46 PM

Brodie Smith Presser January 4 Brodie Smith chats with the media as the Crows return for time-trials and the first training session of 2016.
I think ‘VB’ got knocked off last year, so he was keen to get his crown back.

Nathan van Berlo has reclaimed his time trial crown at Adelaide’s first training session of 2016.

The players were split into two groups for Monday’s 2km time trial at the University loop.

Wingman David Mackay was the first across the line in group one, while van Berlo edged out Riley Knight and pre-Christmas winner Jake Kelly to lead group two with the quickest time overall.

Van Berlo, 29, didn’t participate in the Club’s first time trial of the summer in December as he recovered from post-season shoulder surgery. A regular pacesetter, van Berlo was pipped by fellow endurance athlete Sam Kerridge, who has since joined Carlton, in a time trial last pre-season.

Teammate Brodie Smith said van Berlo was determined to redeem himself on Monday.

“I think ‘VB’ got knocked off last year, so he was keen to get his crown back,” Smith said after training.

“He ran really well and, obviously, D-Mac (Mackay) is in great nick as well so they took out their two groups. VB is always [in really great shape]. Somehow, he has come back even fitter than he normally looks, so I don’t know how he’s done it, but he just keeps getting better and better.

“Obviously, with his Achilles he took a bit to come back, and for him to come back to pre-season the way he is and really firing on the track, I think he is going to put in a good year."

Young defenders Luke Brown and Jake Lever, and midfielders Rory Sloane and Dean Gore rounded out the top five in group one. Smith and Rory Atkins finished behind van Berlo, Knight and Kelly in the second run.

Smith said the results were pleasing across the board.

“I think a lot of the boys have trained really hard over Christmas and there was a lot of good times (personal bests) today,” he said.

“We had our training (program) to do over the break and ‘Pykey’ (Coach Don Pyke) spoke about really hitting the track hard, so we could come back here and get straight back into it.

“I think all the boys have done that because we trained really well today.”

In encouraging signs, Brad Crouch (foot) and Curtly Hampton (groin) both trained with the main group.

Andy Otten (knee) and Ricky Henderson (back) were restricted to light duties.

Smith, 23, is hoping for an uninterrupted pre-season after a frustrating 2015.

The line-breaking backman is yet to learn what his exact role will be under Pyke. However, the new coach has indicated he’s keen to retain Smith in his All-Australian winning role of half-back as well as on a wing.

“I’ve said it every year, I’ll play where the team needs me,” Smith said.

“We’ll start getting into the game plan soon and it’ll become clearer where ‘Pykey’ wants me to play. We’ve got a lot versatility now with Curtly Hampton and Paul Seedsman coming into the team.

“There are a lot of guys who can play that wing/half-back role, so I’d imagine there will be a bit of flexibility through there this year.”

Adelaide’s opening NAB Challenge game is against West Coast at Unley Oval on Sunday, February 21.