Tom Hawkins at training in January
There's some pretty big boys that I play on, so I need to be strong in my position.
HE WAS already one of the most imposing players in the competition, but Tom Hawkins has emerged from Geelong's pre-season program heavier and stronger.
And the 24-year-old, who tips the scales at 105kg, is confident his extra strength and bulk will help him become an even more dominant key forward.
"I've continued to improve when it comes to the weights that I lift, and you have to," Hawkins told geelongcats.com.au.
"There's some pretty big boys that I play on, so I need to be strong in my position.
"It's great for me to try and match blokes like Pods (James Podsiadly), who can lift 10 or 15 or 20 kilograms more than me in the gym.
"Not a whole lot has changed in terms of my weight, I've just tried to get a little bit stronger and a little bit fitter, which is my aim every year."
Since his breakout performance in the 2011 Grand Final win over Collingwood, Hawkins has become Geelong's most dangerous attacking weapon.
Last year he won the Cats' best and fairest, finished runner-up in the Coleman Medal and was named in the All Australian team for the first time.
He also took the equal-most marks inside 50 in the AFL (83) and was second in contested marks (54).
"I suppose I've now got the confidence in myself, knowing that I've actually performed for a period of time at AFL-level," Hawkins said.
"Before that I always thought I was good enough, but I had never performed.
"Until you actually prove yourself to your teammates, your supporters and the people within the AFL community, you've never really gained the confidence.
"But now I have got a little bit of that I hope it grows on me and I can keep improving.
"Although I had a good year last year, there's still areas that I need to improve, and that's the same as any footballer.
"I'm sure Gary Ablett says that every year and I know Joel Selwood says that every year. There's always something that you can improve on.
"Ideally, I'd love to get to the point where everything's all good, but that's never going to happen."
Despite his recent success, Hawkins certainly isn't getting ahead of himself.
After being labelled an under-performer during the early years of his career, he is driven to keep proving himself.
"I think footy always throws challenges at you, whether that be trying to establish yourself as a player or the middle of your career when you're not going too well and you're trying to find your feet," he said.
"Even when you have a good year or two, there's always challenge in there, and I'm a competitive bloke and I love a challenge.
"This year, just trying to be consistent throughout the whole year is a big challenge for me.
"And at 24, turning 25, there's a lot more responsibility on me as a player.
"Trying to help the younger players in the team and provide a bit more leadership around the place is another big challenge.
"It's an exciting time. Every year I look forward to what the season brings, but this year is a huge challenge, probably more so than ever. I can't wait."
Geelong takes on West Coast and Fremantle in its round one NAB Cup matches at Patersons Stadium on Saturday, February 16.
Adam McNicol covers Geelong news for AFL.com.au. Follow him on Twitter at @AFL_AdamMcNicol