That's my number: Paul Chapman
Paul Chapman tells us what his number means to him
It's been one of my best pre-seasons for a long time
A REJUVENTATED Paul Chapman is aiming to spend far more time in Geelong's midfield this season than he did last year.
Struggles with form and fitness meant the 31-year-old three-time premiership player spent most of the Cats' 2012 campaign in the forward line.
But with his body back to 100 per cent, Chapman has built up his endurance and speed over the summer, even recording a career-best time for a two-kilometre time-trial.
"It's been one of my best pre-seasons for a long time," Chapman told geelongcats.com.au.
"Probably for the last four years I haven't really had a pre-season like this one, due to injuries and everything.
"Last year I had a consistent pre-season, and I didn't miss any sessions, but I probably didn't get the volume of work that I wanted.
"This year I've done it all."
Chapman has been battling to get his body right since hitting his peak when he won the Norm Smith Medal after a dominant performance in the 2009 Grand Final win over St Kilda.
"For two of three years before last season I had problems with my hamstrings, then with my groins," he said.
"I really struggled to get any consistency in my training.
"When I could train, I'd be able to do everything one week, but then I'd be off the track the following week because I'd be too sore.
"So we came up with a two-year plan, the fitness staff and myself.
"I still did a hard pre-season last year, but rather than running 12kms in a session, I'd come off after eight or something like that.
"It was about getting through the year and then doing it all this year.
"It has all worked well; it's been a good plan. Credit to the fitness staff for making it happen."
Chapman admits that his scaled-down pre-season last year restricted his versatility on the field.
"I was still probably not fit enough to play high levels in the midfield, so I did end up playing a lot more in the forward line," he said.
"I love playing up forward, but there were times when the mind wanted to do things that the body couldn't cash in on.
"But I knew where I was with my body, and I knew what our plans were."
And as Chapman rightly points out, "I still kicked nearly 40 goals [36.15 to be exact], the second-highest at the footy club, so my year couldn't have been too bad.
"But I still would have like to have been better and I suppose others probably thought I could have been better as well.
"It wasn't my worst year, I wasn't disappointed with my year.
"I was disappointed with our loss to Freo in the finals, but I was happy with what my body was able to give."
Although he's unlikely to travel to Perth for round one of the NAB Cup, Chapman is keen to get plenty of game-time in rounds two and three when the Cats host Adelaide and North Melbourne at Simonds Stadium.
"It's a different kind of fitness, match fitness," Chapman said. "You can be as fit as you want during the pre-season, but you've got to get match-fitness.
"As long as I can get a couple of the NAB Cup games in, I'll be happy and ready to go for round one."
Adam McNicol covers Geelong news for AFL.com.au. Follow him on Twitter at @AFL_AdamMcNicol