AFL 2022: Essendon star Jake Stringer reveals physical and mental transformation that led to career-best form

Jake Stringer was one of the AFL’s best players in the second half of last year, and now he wants to replicate that form for a full season.

Essendon’s Jake Stringer says he is primed for another strong season after a big pre-season. Picture: Getty Images
Essendon’s Jake Stringer says he is primed for another strong season after a big pre-season. Picture: Getty Images

Essendon star Jake Stringer has revealed the 7kg physical transformation – off the back of stinging criticism – that fuelled his career-best second half of last season.

Stringer trained so hard in the 2021 off-season and once the pre-season kicked off that he sustained an achilles bleed and missed the first two rounds of last year.

But in a frank chat with his private trainer Jack Kelly, Stringer conceded it was a sacrifice he needed to make to reach greater heights and accept assistant coach Blake Caracella’s challenge to play more midfield time.

“I knew at some stage I was going to come unstuck because I’d done so much running that I hadn’t done before,” Stringer told the How They Train podcast.

“It was always going to happen, but I knew I had to do that to set myself up to get to the place I needed to get to, if that makes sense?

“That’s where my mindset shifted.”

Jake Stringer (right) celebrates a goal with Essendon teammate Devon Smith last year. Picture: Getty Images
Jake Stringer (right) celebrates a goal with Essendon teammate Devon Smith last year. Picture: Getty Images

Stringer approached Ballarat-based Kelly after struggling with pain in the aftermath of syndesmosis surgery in mid-2020 that he admitted he rushed back from for the team’s sake.

He couldn’t recapture his impressive early-season form – which he felt people forgot about – and was slammed in some quarters for being overweight.

Stringer had barely trained, run or performed any physical activity outside of game day for about three months before linking up with Kelly.

The renowned trainer put him on a gruelling 12-week program, beginning with torturous exercise bike sessions in his father’s shed that he “hated” while his ankle regained strength.

By the end of it, the brilliant forward-midfielder had streamlined from a “heavy” 98kg to 91kg.

Stringer, who signed a fresh three-year deal in July, said last season still “had its ups and downs” but that he was confident his hard yards would eventually pay dividends.

Stringer says he has missed only one session for the entire pre-season. Picture: Mark Stewart
Stringer says he has missed only one session for the entire pre-season. Picture: Mark Stewart

“I knew in my body that at some stage during the season I was going to get a good run at it,” he said.

“And (my mindset was), ‘Look out when I get going because I know I’m in a place where I haven’t been before’.”

Stringer kicked 25 goals in his final 11 games last year, coinciding with him also becoming one of the AFL’s best centre-clearance players.

In one five-game stretch, he kicked 13 goals and averaged 24 disposals, seven inside 50s, six clearances and five tackles.

The gun Bomber was so good in the second half of the season that he forced his way into the All-Australian squad of 40 but didn’t make the final cut.

“You’ve got bonuses in your contract – the majority of people do for it – so financially, it was a bit of a kick,” he said.

Stringer’s ability to be a matchwinner up forward and in the midfield makes him one of the AFL’s most dangerous footballers. Picture: Michael Klein
Stringer’s ability to be a matchwinner up forward and in the midfield makes him one of the AFL’s most dangerous footballers. Picture: Michael Klein

“But in the same sense, I was well aware that my first half of the year was very quiet.

“To be put in the conversation of being an All-Australian virtually off 10 games, I was like, ‘That’s an effort in itself’.

“I was more proud of that … which goes to show if I’m able to put together a (full) season, that it’s taken out of people’s hands and they’ve got no choice (but to pick me).”

Stringer has focused more on his explosiveness this summer rather than purely on pounding the pavement like last pre-season, but his intensity has remained high.

In an insight into his new “ruthless” mindset, he said he tried to treat each training session “like it’s war” and as if he was facing Dustin Martin in front of 90,000 screaming fans.

Stringer is intent on backing up his career-best form from last season. Picture: Michael Klein
Stringer is intent on backing up his career-best form from last season. Picture: Michael Klein

Stringer is adamant he is in position for another strong solo campaign, even though a groin issue has modified his duties this week.

“I missed six weeks of pure football pre-season last year and I missed the first two rounds, and at the minute I think I’ve missed one session since I’ve been back,” he said.

“I went back (early) with the young boys as well, so it just goes to show that we’ve taken another massive step in being ready.

“I wasn’t training this time last year – I was in a moon boot for another six weeks – so I’m licking my lips and anything I’m doing now is a massive bonus.

“Each time I step out on the park, I’m loving it.”

Originally published as AFL 2022: Essendon star Jake Stringer reveals physical and mental transformation that led to career-best form

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