Jesse Hogan is on track to play a key role in Melbourne’s bid to end their long finals drought next season, impressing on return to pre-season training after the toughest year of his life.
Hogan, 22, lost his father to cancer in April, battled testicular cancer himself after being diagnosed in May and was also sidelined by a broken collarbone, managing just 10 games.
The Claremont product was also the subject of trade speculation after meeting Fremantle captain Nat Fyfe while back in Perth in October, but quickly shut down talk of a move.
Hogan completed Melbourne’s gruelling session in 30C heat yesterday and has impressed teammates with his ability to overcome the personal and professional challenges.
“It was very tough seeing him, as a person you spend a lot of time around, going through all that,” Demons defender Neville Jetta said.
“As a teammate, you try to be there and support him and try not to be too overbearing.
“He’s come back to the club in pretty good nick and that’s all you want.”
Hogan played six of the final seven games last season as Melbourne fell agonisingly short of qualifying for their first finals series since 2006.
The hulking spearhead kicked six goals in the win over Brisbane in round 22, giving the Demons hope he will return to the form that saw him kick more than 40 goals in each of his first two seasons at AFL level.
“He knows himself that he needs to keep improving, but coming back in good nick is half the battle won there,” Jetta said.
Jetta joined training this week, having being granted time off after the International Rules series.
The 27-year-old defender is looking forward to lining up alongside trade period recruit Jake Lever in the back line.
Lever’s arrival from Adelaide, coupled with the departure of Jack Watts to Port Adelaide, will likely see Melbourne use versatile swingman Tom McDonald as a permanent forward alongside Hogan in a dangerous attacking set-up.