Gun St Kilda ruckman Rowan Marshall is desperate to put a "frustrating" 2021 season behind him.
The proud Portland export will enter his sixth season at AFL level with the Saints, hoping to once again be a major factor in propelling his club back into the top-eight.
A taste of finals in 2020, which saw the Saints rise from 14th to semi-finals gave a glimpse into the club's talent, but fell back down to earth in 2021 with a disappointing campaign.
"We got that taste in 2020 of finals footy and then last year we weren't consistent enough," he told The Standard.
"We strung together some consistent games towards the end of the year but we're hungry this year to bounce back and get back into that finals mix.
"We want to play consistent footy like we did two years ago. We're raring to go and rip into games.
"It'll be interesting to see how we go when the games roll around."
From an individual perspective, Marshall featured just 13 times at AFL level in 2021, suffering a stress issue in his foot prior to the season, with further injuries to his plantar fascia which required surgery throughout the season causing issues.
"It's (the injury) been great this pre-season, I had a lot of troubles last year with the foot but this year I've got a good block of training in and feeling fit and healthy which is the main thing," he said.
"Last year was tough though, I hadn't had too many injuries up until then so it was a different kind of year that I've never really experienced before. Every second step you took you'd be thinking about it, it was not only hard physically but it was hard mentally.
"You're playing under duress and worrying about getting through the games, but that's all past me now and it's good to be fit and healthy.
"I'm really, really keen for games to come around."
Marshall, a former GWV Rebel, is likely to work in tandem with veteran ruckman Paddy Ryder throughout the season, a combination that proved dangerous in the 2020 season.
"Paddy is a crucial part of our team, we play better when he's back out there," Marshall said.
"He's going alright, we're not sure if he'll play round one or not but he's ticking along nicely.
"He's coming towards the end of his career so we'll monitor and track him but it might mean I have to spend a bit more time in the ruck which I don't mind.
"Whether I'm playing down forward one out or in the ruck I'm more than comfortable doing whatever it takes for our team to be better.
"We'll wait and see how this season pans out, but it may look a bit different this year, or it may not."
With 65 games next to his name, Marshall believes he's entering the peak of his powers having come through the 2017 rookie draft as a mature age prospect.
The 26-year-old went on to finish second in the club best and fairest in 2019, averaging 18 disposals and 29 hit-outs, with a fourth-placed finish in 2020 indicative of his importance to the side.
"You start to feel more comfortable with every AFL game you play and I certainly feel that's the case for me," he said.
"There's not only me, but a core group at the club that are entering their prime so we've got that age demographic at the Saints now where we should start playing some strong consistent footy."
Home is where the heart is for Marshall, and the big man says he loves getting home to Portland on the farm where it all began.
"I love my family, I love getting back home to spend time with friends and family, and whenever I get the chance I want to head back home and see them," he said.
"It'll be great for my family with crowds coming back, I'll be able to see them more now, they'll be able to travel to Melbourne on the weekends when I'm playing.
"With COVID impacting everything over the last few years, it'll be great to get home and see them all more."
The Saints take on Carlton from 10am on Thursday, February 24 in a pre-season practice match, with a community series match against Essendon at Marvel Stadium on Saturday, March 5 to follow.
St Kilda then hosts Collingwood in a blockbuster round one clash on Friday, March 18 at Marvel Stadium.
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