A defiant Kieran Foran hopes the worst of his injury struggles are finally behind him as he prepares for what he describes as a career-defining season at the Bulldogs.
Foran's form has stalled since he left Manly in 2015 due to a series of injuries and off-field issues, but he remains confident his best years remain ahead of him.
He managed 12 games for the Bulldogs last season until a toe injury that required surgery ruled him out for the rest of the season.
"You arrive at a new club with every intention of playing the best footy, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way for various reasons," Foran said at a team media session at Belmore Sports Ground.
"It's frustrating. I'm my harshest critic and I know when I'm not performing to my ability and doing what I need to do for the side. I wasn't doing that last season.
"Whether my body wasn't up to scratch physically or whether I just wasn't able to find that momentum to play that good footy I just wasn't doing it.
"I haven't been able to train a lot the last few years. My body just hasn't allowed me to. That's probably caused me to physically not be ready when I’m out on the field.
"I'm doing everything I can in my power to get back and play the best footy I'm able to play. I know I've got it in me and I’m capable of doing it. It's just a matter of getting there."
Once one of the premier halves in the game, Foran has managed to complete his first pre-season in four years – albeit with a minor tweak of the hamstring last week – and should be fit for the trials.
"I cleaned up the injuries that needed to be cleaned up. I've been able to get through all the sessions pretty much. I'm hopeful that will leave me in good stead," he said.
"It presents you with an opportunity, doesn't it? When those tough times happen you have to find a way to pick yourself up and work out what you've got to do to get better."
The Bulldogs have lost several experienced big names over the past 12 months due to salary cap pressures, coinciding with Des Hasler's exit and Dean Pay's arrival as coach.
Foran believes his settled life off the paddock has him in better shape to excel in his second season at Belmore and lead a promising batch of youth coming through the system. The former Kiwi international married his wife Karina in October.
"Yeah, it plays a massive role," he said.
"If your life away from your work environment is settled, you come to work every day aiming to apply yourself to the best of your ability and you can fully focus on what you need to get done.
"That's been the pleasing thing the past few months is I've been able to do that. Life's great away from footy now. Times are good and hopefully that makes it easier for me in the year.
"It's everything… it's a big year for me, there's no escaping that. I've had a challenging last three years on and off the field. This is the first year now in a few years that I've been able to have a full pre-season and I'm settled away from the field."