Collingwood star Travis Cloke will attack the 2016 AFL season with a chip on his shoulder after being stung into action by criticism of his performance this year.
Cloke kicked 34 goals in 17 games – his worst return since 2009 – and ended the season poorly, with just three in his last six matches.
The 28-year-old says he was hampered by niggling injuries late in the Magpies’ campaign but, not requiring post-season surgery, he will be a full participant in pre-season training.
“I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things to get myself mentally and physically right for the 2016 season and to prove a few critics wrong,” Cloke said on Thursday.
“I’ve enjoyed a few interesting stories this year in the paper, social media and even last night with The Ox (David Schwarz) on his radio station – I think I was his second-most overrated sports person in Australia.
“It’s always interesting to see some people’s opinions – right or wrong, everyone’s entitled to them, I guess.”
The fighting words from a fired-up Cloke will be music to coach Nathan Buckley’s ears after his side missed the finals for the second year running.
The Pies are attempting to strengthen their squad in the trade period in which they’re trying to add trade targets Adam Treloar, James Aish and Jeremy Howe.
“Obviously, he’d be a nice addition to our forward line,” Cloke said of Howe.
“I think him and Jamie Elliott together would be quite interesting and entertaining – I’d like to sit back and watch those two jump on each other’s heads. As long as they’re not on mine, that would be great.
“Hopefully, he can come but I think we’re one of many clubs lining up for him.”
Cloke admitted he found the AFL’s annual player movement period a difficult time.
Teammates Paul Seedsman, Nathan Freeman and Ben Kennedy have all requested trades.
While Cloke wished them the best, he noted his distaste at the growing trend of contracted players opting out of clubs.
“I’m not a fan of that. I encourage free agency and players moving but, to me, a contract is a contract and you honour that,” he said.
“Obviously, if you come to an arrangement with a footy club and it’s better for both parties, then great but I think these players – especially the younger ones when they’re three or four years into a career – to actually nominate (where they want to go), I think that’s a bit unusual.
“I’m a bit of an old-fashioned player – show some loyalty and respect as well – I think that might not be given at the moment and it’s a bit disrespectful.”