THIS TIME 12 months ago, Matthew Owies was heading into a new year with one senior game under his belt.
Now, having played 14 of them in Navy Blue, it’s only natural that his pre-season focuses have pivoted slightly.
But for the workhorse small forward, there’s one constant: getting the most out of every single session.
And there’s been a particular element of the pre-season so far which has been “music to the ears” of the 24-year-old.
“When you’ve only played one game, you’re really trying to crack into the team and that’s your main focus,” Owies told Carlton Media.
“‘Things like 'how am I going to be part of the team?’ and ‘where is my playing opportunity going to come?’. After last year, I had a good run of games and if you said that to me at the start of the year, I would’ve taken that every day of the week.
“This year, I’ve really focused on the things that I learned playing AFL football and areas that I can improve on, as well as playing to the strengths that got me there in the first place.
“I have goals that I set for myself, but more so ones that are process-based. I think sometimes I can get caught up in wanting to play every game or cracking into the team by a certain week, which can be uncontrollable sometimes.
“I set those ones out, but then go back to the process of the day-to-day stuff.”
And when it comes to the day-to-day element of training, Owies has certainly loved one particular focus.
Back in business this week, there certainly seemed to be a heavy workload on the track. And since returning back in November, it’s been all about pressure.
For Owies, who led the team in forward-50 tackles per game last season, it’s something that he and the wider playing group have relished.
“The drills are definitely a little bit different: higher intensity, short and sharp and then running in between drills which blows up your legs,” he said.
“There’s been a lot of pressure stuff. ‘Vossy’ and the other coaches have come in with a clear plan that at the source, it’s all about putting on pressure.
“It’s so much whose turn it is to go. When it’s your time to go, just go — the boys have loved being crazy down there and hunting the ball and the player.
“With such a focus on it, it’s even a pride thing. ‘He did it, so now I’ve got to do it’.
“Everyone has their moments and the major thing is we’re putting on immense pressure as we go.”
With a new year comes two of any playing group’s favourite words in regards to pre-season training: match simulation.
And as Owies and the rest of the forwards continue to build their relationship with new assistant coach Ash Hansen, he said he was looking forward to proving his wares and working closely with the former West Coast premiership player.
“Ash has been really open to helping us and is really knowledgeable,” he said.
“Before Christmas, we didn’t have too much match sim, which is where you get your gold nuggets out of.
“Now, with match sim ramping up, I can look at my patterns with Ash and whether I should have done this or that, as well as going through the defensive stuff with [Aaron] ‘Sammy’ Hamill.”