Dane Swan insists there is plenty of AFL life left in this old tattooed dog yet despite a 2014 season he rates as putrid.
The worst form of the 30-year-old’s stellar career has made Swan realise his very best football is probably behind him.
But the Collingwood midfield ace also learned his lesson the hard way about the perils of a bad pre-season.
“The days of me worrying about winning best and fairests and making All-Australian sides have kind of gone now,” said the 2011 Brownlow Medallist, three-time club champion and five-time All Australian.
“I just want to get back to playing good, decent footy and help this side get back into the eight, where we think it belongs.”
A year ago, Swan was coming off another great season where he finished third in the Brownlow and made the All-Australian team again.
But a wrist reconstruction and glandular fever restricted him to walking laps at the start of pre-season.
He only managed 17 games this year – his worst tally since 2005 – and was a shadow of the player who normally headlines the Collingwood midfield.
Swan has never been a fan of pre-season work, especially the running, but after this year the straight-talking star knows he needs it.
“It was horrendous – I had one good game on Anzac Day and that was about it,” he said.
“It was putrid, so I certainly don’t expect to be like that next year.”
Swan also admitted he had paid for not being honest with the club about the state of his body.
Adding to this transition phase in his career, Swan is now easily the oldest player on Collingwood’s list.
Captain Nick Maxwell and Luke Ball have retired, while Heritier Lumumba is at Melbourne.
Swan’s great mate Dayne Beams, another senior player, has also moved to Brisbane.
“I have lunch on my own now – no-one really talks to me,” Swan sarcastically replied when asked if he now felt lonely at Collingwood.
“I think I’m the oldest by three years, so the footy club says `stop talking to all the young kids, because everyone you hang around just ends up getting the boot’.
More seriously, Swan said he wanted to be a better mentor to Collingwood’s many youngsters.
“My relationship with the guys away from the footy club is probably a lot better than what it is with leadership aspects on the field,” he said.
“It’s something I clearly have to work on, to pass on whatever little knowledge I have of the game.”