POST-SEASON ankle surgery has Essendon rebounding defender Marty Gleeson confident he can achieve career-highs in 2020.
The Koroit export played nine matches in the back half of last season after overcoming a broken foot and dislocated ankle which sidelined him for 15 months.
"It was good to be back last year. It was obviously a bit slower than we first thought and then there was the interruption with breaking my cheekbone which wasn't ideal," Gleeson told The Standard.
"It was good to get back and that gave me a bit of confidence and then at the end of the year, as soon as we lost the (elimination) final, I went in and had a bit of a clean out to try and make it a couple of per cent better which I think it has.
"I've been slowly building up through the pre-season and the last week I am fully back in training and doing everything."
Gleeson, 25 and with 78 AFL games to his credit, expects to feature in two of the Bombers' three pre-season fixtures, which includes a scratch match against Melbourne.
A trip to Colac - the scene of his freak injury in March 2018 - is one he will embrace not shirk from.
"I am unsure what my pre-season will look like in terms of how many games I will play. I probably won't play all three, I might get two in," he said.
"I probably will play the Colac game and I am looking forward to that against Geelong. Back to the scene of the crime. I don't have too many bad memories. It will be no issue."
Gleeson, who will slot into the Bombers' back six, feels refreshed and ready for his eighth season at the elite level.
His off-season included a family trip to Hong Kong for his mum Claire's 60th birthday and rounds of golf at Warrnambool and Port Fairy, the latter with current Koroit coach Chris McLaren.
Gleeson, who plays off a handicap of 12, said golf was the ideal outlet.
"It's therapeutic I guess. You get out on the golf course and don't worry about anything else," he said.
"It is a very frustrating game at times, but it's kind of good because you're focusing your energy on something else other than footy."
Gleeson expects Cobden's Zach Merrett to regain his spot in Essendon's leadership group in future seasons after the former vice-captain missed out on the five-player team for 2020.
The rebounding defender has also flagged his own leadership aspirations "potentially down the track".
"I've got no doubt Zach will be back in the leadership group whether it's next year or in the coming years," he said.
"He's a great leader and he still polled very well and was just unlucky he didn't quite get in this year. You saw with 'Hurls' (Michael Hurley) he spent a year out and has grown his leadership a lot and he's back now.
"I am one of the older boys now, which is sort of hard to believe, but I just want to keep helping out the young guys and get a good culture around the footy club.
"Whether that's in a leadership position or not, it's something I'll keep doing for sure."
Gleeson is also confident the Bombers' succession plan - Ben Rutten will take over the coaching role from John Worsfold next season - is working as planned.
He believes Essendon can end its finals winning drought which extends back to 2004.
"Our group is still very new together so it's not as if we've been playing since 2000," he said.
"It's about creating our own identity. At the moment we're not too worried about the outcome, we're just worried about the process.
"That sounds very cliche but we're just trying to get better every week like everyone else.
"We want to be playing some good footy at the start of the year but we want to make sure we're playing good footy come finals time and not limping to the line and scraping in."
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