READ MORE - Four Bendigo Pioneers players drafted
FORMER Bendigo Pioneer Kobe Mutch is earmarking 2020 as what he hopes will be his breakout year in the AFL with Essendon.
Entering his fourth season with the Bombers, the 21-year-old has put injury frustration behind him to be one of the team's strong performers on the track during the pre-season.
The Bombers' pre-season continued in Bendigo on Thursday with a grueling session at the QEO lasting more than two hours on a humid morning as part of Essendon's two-day community camp.
"It has been a bit of a bumpy road... I haven't played as much senior footy as I would have liked to by now, but hopefully, this is a year that can be a breakout and I can find my spot in the team," Mutch said.
"Two years ago I had concussion problems and then last year it was my hamstring and a fractured patella... I only played two-and-a-half games last year, but I've been able to get through the pre-season unscathed so far and haven't missed a session and, hopefully, I get a crack in the practice matches."
Mutch, originally from Gol Gol, was drafted by Essendon from the Bendigo Pioneers with selection 42 in the 2016 AFL Draft.
"It's a dream lifestyle... I've always wanted to play football and injuries are just part of it," Mutch said.
"As frustrating as they are, hopefully, I'm past all of that now and I can just get some good footy under my belt."
Mutch debuted for the Bombers in round six of 2018 in a 36-point loss to Melbourne at Marvel Stadium and now has four games under his belt.
His first AFL win came on a Friday night in round three against Melbourne at the MCG last year in what was the game where Mutch suffered the hamstring injury that put the first brake on his 2019 season.
"Having had that taste of AFL football just makes you all the more hungry... playing in front of the big crowds on the big stage is a great experience," Mutch said.
"I've played against Carlton, Hawthorn and Melbourne, so there was some big crowds there and it just makes you hungry to keep going and, hopefully, I can play in a few big games this year.
"As far as goals go for this year, at the moment I'm just trying to get through pre-season, get a crack in the pre-season competition and then re-evaluate from there."
Albeit a tough session the players were put through on Thursday morning, Mutch says he enjoyed his return to the QEO for the Bombers' open training session.
"There was a really good turnout from the locals here today and the conditions were nice and hot," Mutch said.
"The boys trained well... it was similar to game volume with a lot of running on a good, hard deck."
While in Bendigo Mutch will make a visit back to his former school Bendigo Senior Secondary College, where he spent two years, on Friday to speak with students in the sporting program.
"It was only four years ago when I was at BSSC and we had guest speakers come from various sports," Mutch said.
"You certainly don't realise at the time that four years on you'll be going back to the school to give the students bits of advice.
"I took a lot out of it back then and, hopefully, the students can take a bit from what I've got to say."
Essendon, which was beaten by West Coast in an elimination final last year, begins its pre-season campaign in the west against the Eagles on February 27.
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