Dell'Olio excited yet nervous over return with Bulldogs
THERE might be few people more nervous yet excited come Round 1 than Cory Dell'Olio with the South Fremantle premiership player desperate to be back involved at the Bulldogs after missing all of 2016.
Dell'Olio returned to South Fremantle after playing 16 games in four years at Essendon in 2015 looking to be part of a similar run of success that he had at the Bulldogs prior to his AFL career that included the 2009 premiership.
He had a good first year back in 2015 kicking 33 goals to be the club's leading goalkicker while also playing in Western Australia's state game victory over South Australia.
However, it didn’t lead to the team success he was craving again and then Dell'Olio was dealt a cruel blow having to miss all of the 2016 season.
In his absence, South Fremantle returned to finals action finishing the home and away season in second spot and getting all the way to the preliminary final.
Dell'Olio admits that there were tough times during last year when he wasn’t allowed to be involved and with the team going so well, but that's all behind him now.
He feels fresh and excited coming into the new season, but by no means does he think he is a lock to be there in Round 1 against Subiaco at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.
However, if he is it will mean the world to him to be running out in the Mighty Red V again.
"That would be pretty special to run out for Round 1. There's been a lot of work from my last game to then, so fingers crossed it all goes to plan and that would be a very special moment for me," Dell'Olio said.
"It's pretty exciting to be preparing to play again now. It's been about 16 months since my last game so even to get back out there for pre-season games is exciting and a bit nerve racking to be honest.
"I do feel fresh mentally and physically fairly fresh too. I seem to be running better than I feel like I was in 2015 so that part is exciting. That's all well and good, but I'm finding out now where I'm at so that's the interesting part."
While there were difficult times over the past 12 months, Dell'Olio never seriously considered not returning with the Bulldogs this year and he can't be happier with the new season almost upon him.
"It got put up a bit that I might not come back to play but I think my intention always was to come back. More so because I didn’t want to finish on that note. It wasn’t something I wanted to lock away straight away but it was never as though I was ever not playing either," he said.
"I was definitely excited to come back. After sitting around and doing your own training for a period of about 10 months can get a bit draining, but to come back and get around the boys again has been really good.
"The club has looked after me pretty well in terms of training especially before Christmas, and I've pretty much done all of it since then and the body has held on OK."
Dell'Olio was obviously happy to see the Bulldogs perform so well again in 2016 to make the finals for the first time since 2011 and win a final for the first time since the grand final victory he was part of in 2009.
He is now looking forward to being part of even more success in 2017 on the back of what was built last year.
"To see the team go so well last year was exciting, and to see the way they would move the ball at training and in games was so different than when I last played in 2015," Dell'Olio said.
"That was really good and now coming into this year we've added a couple of extra players, and the biggest thing is we haven’t really lost anyone of senior experience. That side of it is really good and there's still a lot to do until the season gets going but I think everyone is quietly excited."
Dell'Olio did take time away where he didn’t watch or think about football last year, but he did also try to stay in shape when he could. It was a former South Fremantle teammate who helped him out with that at times as well.
"I stole a couple of programs from some of the boys over in Melbourne who had programs from someone they hired to look after them, so I used that to help me a little bit," he said.
"I also had a personal trainer once a week, Brenton Edwards at Fitness Results, and that kept me in very good stead.
"I used to go there once a week and that helped along with a few extra running sessions on the side. It was a bit sporadic at times but for the last couple of months leading into the season I picked it up a bit."
While it was difficult, Dell'Olio has tried to remain positive that having a year off could end up extending his career with his body enjoying 12 months away from the bash and crash of football.
"It had its moments obviously but I tried to put myself out of it for a while and tried not to think about it too much. When I did that I dealt with it OK," Dell'Olio said.
"There was times when it was a bit tough absolutely, but I just tried to get myself away from it as much as possible and focused on a few other things going on in my life.
"I enjoyed having a year off the best I could that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It had its moments but I just looked to other things really."
Once he hit pre-season training, it struck Dell'Olio how hard it would be to get himself in tip top shape for Round 1 after a year away.
But he knuckled down and worked hard, and now with one pre-season hit out to go this Saturday against Claremont at Fremantle Community Bank Oval he hopes he's not too far off 100 per cent fitness.
"The running side of it was tough, but not as hard because I had been keeping up with that a little bit. It was when we started doing the physical stuff that it really started to get to me," he said.
"The last couple of weeks we've played intra clubs and the competitive training has gone up, and my first efforts have been alright but it tends to drop off pretty quickly. So leading into the season I think I'll still be trying to find my feet with that."
Dell'Olio has played 74 games with the Bulldogs and kicked 142 goals as a two-time leading goalkicker, premiership player and has represented WA twice.
It already is a strong career for the 27-year-old and there's every chance he has several years left in his body, but he just wants to get this season over with before he thinks too far ahead.
"I am starting to get a bit older but I'd like to think I have a couple of years left," Dell'Olio said.
"It's such an unknown, though, so at this stage I'll take it week by week but I have definitely committed to playing the year out and taking it from there. I literally don’t know how I'm going to go this year."