On day one back at West Lakes in 2022, the excitement was palpable for Ned McHenry.
The 21-year-old returned to his hometown of Geelong over the Christmas break to see friends, family and his mum for the first time in more than a year.
“It’s so important to go and see family,” McHenry told AFC Media.
“It was a good time to get back to base camp and catch up with everyone and I’m sure a lot of people felt like that… you get to catch up with school mates and people you unfortunately lose touch with a little bit.”
But while he treasured the time at home, McHenry was itching to return to the Club to crack in for 2022.
“It’s always that buzz for the first couple of days when you’re back, you miss being around the people you work with every day and you miss the structure of work and training and getting fit,” McHenry said.
The small forward said a lot of that excitement was thanks to the bonds between Adelaide’s players, which translated into connection on and off the field.
“We’re so lucky with footy really, so many of us have mutual interests, we’re similar ages, it means you’ve got so many friends that you’d want to catch up with regardless of it being work or not… it just means coming back is really exciting,” McHenry said.
“It was the same as the off-season, we all caught up in groups to train together and that was really enjoyable.
“It just meant we could train at a really high level. There would be groups of 10 guys catching up at stages and training which is really good, then we could all grab brekky and hang out after.”
In his fourth year at the Crows, McHenry said the side was seeing the fruits of its labour from pre-seasons past.
“Burgo (Darren Burgess) has clearly brought in some different ideas with his experience and there’s a lot of value in that,” McHenry said of Adelaide’s new High Performance Manager.
“I think we’ve built, over the last couple of years, a really good base that we’re now building on again rather than having to start from the start.
“It’s not really a massive pre-season to get us into check, it’s a pre-season that’s complimentary of a few pre-seasons.
“(Burgess) has obviously got some little one-per-centers that are really adding onto that.”