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Is age is just a number for these veterans?

He'll turn 35 midway through the season but Luke Hodge is still going strong. The four-time premiership star has completed everything during the pre-season and just like 2018, where he played 19 games, is expected to be a backline mainstay, although competition for spots should be tougher. Ruckman Stefan Martin has suffered from a couple of minor niggles to his back and ankle and been kept out of a handful of drills. However, the 32-year-old has missed no running and will take part in match simulation this week. Following four excellent seasons, in which he's finished top four in the best and fairest count each time, Martin deservedly has the inside running for the top ruck job but now has Oscar McInerney and Archie Smith snapping at his heels. - Michael Whiting

 

Electric small forward Eddie Betts has shaken off the hamstring issues that disrupted his season last year. The oldest player on the Crows' list at 32, hasn't missed a beat during his 15th pre-season. Betts kicked 29 goals last year, his lowest return since 2013. Ruckman Sam Jacobs, 30, is also primed to rebound after being down on his best last year. Jacobs will face competition from his back-up Reilly O'Brien, who has stood out with his running ability. Midfielders David Mackay, 30, and Richard Douglas, 32 in February, could be used in different roles. Mackay can alternate between the wing and half-back, while Douglas can play across half-forward. Mackay had minor surgery on his Achilles before Christmas, but has returned to full training in the past two weeks. Defender Andy Otten, 29, is also back to full training after he had an Achilles issue at the end of last season. - Lee Gaskin

It's business as usual for Carlton's 307-game veteran Kade Simpson. The durable defender continues to drive the standards in his 17th pre-season with the club, even seen doing extra running drills alongside new fitness guru Andrew Russell after a gruelling summer training session prior to Christmas. Expect his importance to remain high in a Blues backline that will again be without co-captain Sam Docherty. Former skipper Marc Murphy retains his place in the leadership group, despite relinquishing the captaincy after last season. He remains a key player, who could fit into a new role after spending periods across half-back upon returning from injury in 2018. Matthew Kreuzer is back in full training after a heart scare prematurely ended his campaign last season, while 31-year-old Dale Thomas is also set to go around again after inking a one-year deal in September. His move into a position across half-back last season breathed new life into his career at Ikon Park. - Riley Beveridge

By late April, the Pies will have an equal League-high eight players aged at least 30, the bulk of whom could be about to enter their final seasons. Skipper Scott Pendlebury continues to set high standards, as does hard nut Levi Greenwood, who is widely regarded as the Pies' hardest trainer. Flexible pair Travis Varcoe and Tyson Goldsack are both on track after 2019 campaigns that were challenging for different reasons, while the reborn Chris Mayne, who is halfway through a four-year deal, is in good shape to reach 200 games in the opening month. Full-back Lynden Dunn is making solid progress towards an early-season return from a left knee reconstruction, while fellow tall Ben Reid is trying to fortify his ageing legs against injuries that have plagued him over the past five years. Silky midfielder Daniel Wells, in the final year of his contract, is still on a modified program but Pendlebury said the former Kangaroo was "tracking pretty well" as he fights his way back from the foot injury that sidelined him for the second half of last season. - Ben Collins

Essendon has a relatively small group of older players, and it has been a steady build-up for a number of their senior men. Tom Bellchambers, after shoulder surgery at the end of last season, is due to resume full training next week after going through his rehabilitation program, and it looms as a big year for the 29-year-old as he leads the club's ruck division. Cale Hooker has been doing a modified program at times away from the full Essendon list as he gears up for another year in the backline, while David Myers too doesn't complete everything as he manages his body over pre-season. Mark Baguley, who was given a one-year contract for 2019, ran well last week, finishing second in his group's run of the club's 'two-lap challenge'. - Callum Twomey

He might have turned 36 last month, but Aaron Sandilands looks in terrific nick. The 211cm giant has only managed 26 games in the past three years, so it remains to be seen how durable he can be in 2019. But Sandilands has completed a power of running work this summer to prepare for his 17th – and almost certainly final – campaign, when he will face stiff competition from Sean Darcy for the No.1 ruck spot. Evergreen veteran David Mundy, 33, has been in and out of drills but appears primed for a season when he needs only six appearances to follow in Matthew Pavlich's footsteps and become just the second WA-based footballer to play 300 matches. Small forward Hayden Ballantyne, 31, has been covering the ground well during a solid summer so far after kicking 21 goals in 17 games last year. - Travis King

With plenty to prove this pre-season, Harry Taylor has returned in sharp order, running his best times in recent memory and training as a permanent defender. As the rest of the squad clocks up three-hour days on the track, skipper Joel Selwood has been put through short, high-intensity sessions with a view to having him cherry ripe for round one. Tom Hawkins has completed all of the summer with plenty of contested work to familiarise himself with new marking rules that should assist him. After three knee surgeries by this time last year, Lachie Henderson appears ready for a full season. Gary Ablett hasn't missed a beat as he eyes more time in the forward 50, even getting the better of some younger teammates in a heavy running block last week. Zach Tuohy has been barely sighted as he overcomes a knee clean-up, but the Cats still confident he'll play his 139th consecutive game in the season opener. - Mitch Cleary

With the youngest list in the competition, not many players fall into this category. Michael Rischitelli is entering his 16th season and hasn't missed a beat this pre-season. He played 21 games in 2018 and although he's unlikely to be called upon as often this year, the 33-year-old is in great shape and ready to put his hand up for a backline spot. Reigning best and fairest winner Jarrod Harbrow has turned 30 and also looks as lively as ever. Harbrow had the most minor of quad niggles in the lead-up to Christmas but missed none of the running sessions and is 100 percent again. Pearce Hanley, now 30, has had a rotten run with injury since joining Gold Coast and after a dislocated shoulder and hamstring problem curtailed his 2018, the Irishman has put together 10 weeks of good work, including a 2km time trial personal best, and is ready to resume a role at half-back. - Michael Whiting

As they did last year, star Giants Brett Deledio and Heath Shaw have had their summers planned to suit their respective needs. Deledio has had trouble with his Achilles/calves and a hamstring over the past two seasons, so strengthening those areas is his priority. The former Tiger is in excellent shape after attacking his cross-training with his usual intensity and should be just about ready to increase his footy training loads. Shaw did his own individual training program before the Christmas break which involved plenty of boxing with former GWS assistant coach Nick Walsh, but he was also at the club doing rehab for his injured knee. The defender is back training well ahead of his 15th season. Shane Mumford suffered a slight hamstring strain at the club's final session of last year and is working his way back to full training. - Adam Curley

Running defender Grant Birchall suffered another blow pre-Christmas, requiring further surgery on the troublesome knee that has limited him to five games in two years. He has resumed light running, with the club hopeful he's back in full training inside the next month. An ankle clean-up for Jarryd Roughead post-season meant he had a delayed start to pre-season but is back with the main group alongside James Frawley, who was nursed through the early stages. Fresh off turning 30, Isaac Smith has maintained his spot as the Hawks' time trial king, while Ben Stratton is primed to again lead the backline. Paul Puopolo and Ricky Henderson have completed the entire summer, while Shaun Burgoyne has done everything asked of him – the trio all enter the season on one-year deals. Ruckman Ben McEvoy has enjoyed a solid pre-season and will hit 30 in July, making him the club's ninth player over 30 by season's end as part of the oldest list in the competition. - Mitch Cleary

Co-skipper Nathan Jones is still a champion player and his influence, when the game is on the line, in particular, remains profound. However, Jones, who will turn 31 this weekend, has been dealing with hamstring/back tightness in recent weeks which has seen him training with the rehab group. Jones falls out of contract at the end of this season but it is difficult to see a situation where he does not continue next year. Jordan Lewis, 32, is also in the final year of his contract and will almost certainly hang up his boots at the end of the year. Lewis will be fighting hard to retain his spot, especially given the club's depth across half-back. Jeff Garlett, 29, fell out of favour at the end of last season and is facing an uphill battle to win his place back in the Demons' side. Garlett is also out of contract and needs a big season to be retained in 2020. - Ben Guthrie

Following Braydon Preuss' departure to Melbourne, Todd Goldstein's role as North Melbourne's No.1 ruckman even more crucial. Goldstein, 30, enjoyed a bounce-back season in 2018, playing all 22 games and averaging 35.6 hit-outs and 14.6 disposals. The Roos have youngster Tristan Xerri and former Dog Tom Campbell in reserve should Goldstein get injured. The All Australian ruckman is critical to the balance of the Roos' side but falls out of contract at the end of 2019. The decision to re-sign Scott Thompson, 32, for another season appears astute, especially given the seriousness of Majak Daw's injuries. Thompson is a steadying influence in defence as Sam Durdin and Ben McKay continue their development. Shaun Higgins, 30, won his first All Australian guernsey following a stellar season in 2018 that saw him average a career-high 27.4 disposals per game. The star midfielder is contracted until the end of 2020 after signing an extension last year. - Ben Guthrie

Relinquishing the captaincy could be just the tonic for Travis Boak to get back to his best football. The 30-year-old stepped down from the Power's top job after leading the club for the past six seasons. Boak averaged 21.9 disposals per game last year, his lowest figure since 2011, as he split time between the midfield and half-forward. Four-time All Australian Robbie Gray, 30, has been on a modified training program. Gray had a cleanout of both knees at the end of last year, but will be ready for the start of the season, playing predominately forward with spurts in the midfield. Ruckman Paddy Ryder, 30, has also been on a modified program as he manages his body after hip and Achilles injuries last year. The addition of West Coast's premiership-winner Scott Lycett will allow Ryder to spend more time up forward. The Power's oldest player, 32-year-old reigning club champion Justin Westhoff, is as durable as ever and has had a faultless summer. - Lee Gaskin

Richmond is a comparatively young club in the veteran stakes. Four players – Shaun Grigg, Jack Riewoldt, Shane Edwards and Bachar Houli – will turn 31 this year, the oldest on the list. Houli has had the most injury concerns in the past few years, missing nine matches in 2018 with a persistent groin injury and one with a calf complaint. Riewoldt had a minor shoulder cleanout at the conclusion of the season and returned to training on time. Grigg and Edwards – who, along with Houli, are out of contract at the end of the season – have had fairly straightforward pre-seasons. The quartet all still have important roles in the side, with Edwards in particular in career-best form, coming off an All Australian blazer. Riewoldt is also the reigning Coleman medallist. – Sarah Black

Saints captain Jarryn Geary has had an interrupted pre-season after being delayed initially by knee surgery. It didn't take long for him to be back in full training but the gritty backman lost his title as the club's time trial king, coming third behind Ed Phillips and Daniel McKenzie in January. However, he was only a few seconds off what he would normally run and the 30-year-old will likely improve as the pre-season progresses. At the same age are fellow defender Nathan Brown and onballer David Armitage. Brown is as fit as he's been in a long time and is probably still ahead of Logan Austin as the side's second key defender, behind Jake Carlisle. Armitage's situation is interesting. His preferred position is in the midfield but hamstring, groin and back issues have plagued him in recent seasons, and he's likely to spend more time across half-back. He will likely be a depth player in 2019. - Dinny Navaratnam

Superstar forward Lance Franklin remains some time away from joining the main group after groin surgery and is doing the majority of his training at the club. Franklin is expected to be back running by February. Kieren Jack (knee) and Nick Smith (hamstring) both had surgery last year and continue to progress with their rehabilitation. Both players ran strongly on Friday and should be able to increase their footy-specific training in the coming weeks. Co-captain Josh Kennedy has increased his training loads since returning in the New Year after easing into his work before the Christmas break, and as usual looks in fantastic shape. Heath Grundy has been impressive over the pre-season so far and hasn't missed much of the program as usual, while fellow defender Jarrad McVeigh has again been a standout over summer. The 33-year-old is one of the Swans most professional players and while he doesn't do every session during the week, he's had an impressive pre-season so far. - Adam Curley

It has become a familiar sight to see Josh Kennedy (shoulder) building up his training duties in recent seasons, but the bonus for the Eagles this time is the star spearhead hasn't been battling another leg complaint and has been able to get through plenty of running. Kennedy, 31, looks fit and lean and is expected to resume contact work in the coming weeks. If the dual Coleman medallist and Jack Darling can stay fit it bodes well for West Coast's premiership defence after a perfect 13-0 record when both star forwards were on the park last season. Skipper Shannon Hurn, also 31, is the only other Eagle aged over 30 and the ever-reliable defender hasn't missed a beat this summer. Will Schofield (January), Chris Masten and Lewis Jetta (both May), who all turn 30 this year, have been on the track regularly. - Travis King

Much-loved veteran Liam Picken continues to step up his recovery from a series of debilitating concussions. Having not played a senior game since August 2017, club medics revealed late last year that Picken is still getting 'low-level' headaches and will continue to sit out contact drills at training until specialists give him the green light. Dale Morris is back in training with the main group as he prepares for his 15th season in the AFL. At 35, it looks likely that 2019 will be Morris' last as a player. Two-time premiership defender Matt Suckling, who had previously been linked with a potential move to the NFL to become a punter when his footy career ended, spoke last month about how he hoped season 2019 would not be his last. Goalsneak Tory Dickson signed a one-year extension last September to continue his career into 2019. - Riley Beveridge

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs