19/04/2024

Nik Cox at the first day of Essendon pre-season for first to 5th yr players. Image: Essendon FC/ AFL Photos

Retuning to pre-season training early, second year utility Nik Cox is looking to get stronger in his second year at Essendon

The footballs were back out at the NEC Hangar this morning as Nik Cox along with Essendon’s 1-5 year players were joined by a handful of senior stars for the first day of pre-season training.

On a wet and wintery Wednesday morning, the preparation for season 2022 began at Tullamarine for the Bombers as they look to continue building on last year’s surprise finals appearance.

Essendon surprised many pundits last season, rising from a 13th placed finish in season 2020 and losing several first-choice players to other clubs, the Bombers rose and improved dramatically under new coach Ben Rutten to finish in the top 8 before bowing out in the Elimination Final to eventual Grand Finalists the Western Bulldogs.

Several senior Bombers players, including skipper Dyson Heppell, All Australian last season Darcy Parish and Andrew McGrath joined their younger teammates on the training track today, despite not being officially due back for another two weeks.

Speaking to the media today at the NEC Hangar, rising star nominee from last year Nik Cox said that the fire still burns in the playing group from that first-up finals exit last season, which was one of the driving forces behind the early start on 2022.

“(The return) was set in stone from the moment we left. We said we wanted to get back into it as soon as we can, there’s still a bit of fire in the belly from that final we lost,” Cox said

Cox was a revelation in his first season in the AFL, shooting straight to rising star favouritism in the early rounds of 2021. As the season went on, the 19-year old’s form began to dwindle and Cox was relegated to the role of medical substitute late in the season. A position and place that Cox hopes to avoid this coming season.

“It’s a big driver of mine, I don’t want to fall off (again) like I did. I felt like I was getting a bit tired towards the end of the year.

“That’s what’s good about a full pre-season, I’m able to go and build my body to play a full season.”

The utility was used largely off a wing in his debut season with Rutten and the coaching staff making use of the 200cm prospects tank and ability to cover the ground and use the ball. Cox is ready to again be trialed in a number of roles throughout the pre-season with the hope of settling on a key position slot as the season rolls closer.

“I want to keep the ability to be swung through the midfield, down back, up forward,” he said 

“I’m sure I’ll float through a number of roles during the pre-season, hopefully, I can build into a key position further down the track.”

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Also joining Cox and new recruit Jake Kelly on the track was new development coach Alex Rance.

The 32-year-old abruptly retired in December 2019 and has seldom played any football since. But it remains to be seen if he could be lured out of retirement to aid a skinny Bombers backline.

Asked whether Rance would slot into Essendon’s best side in round one, Cox was certain: “He’s probably capable, he’s that good.

“It’s great to have him out on the track, he’s a great voice and he’s got a lot of knowledge to pass down to us younger players. That’s an awesome thing for us.”

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