Midfielder Luke Valente knows he has a lot of work ahead of him this summer as he continues to push to make his AFL debut leading into his third year at Fremantle.
The 20-year-old was drafted with pick no.32 in the 2018 NAB AFL National Draft and is another name on a long list of young and talented Fremantle midfielders, which includes top-10 selections Andrew Brayshaw, Adam Cerra and Caleb Serong.
Unfortunately, a difficult run with a groin injury has significantly impacted Valente’s first two years at Fremantle.
With the injury concerns behind him, Valente believes adding speed and endurance, as well as an uninterrupted pre-season, will be the key to securing a spot in Fremantle’s best 22.
“I’ve trimmed down a little bit from the back end of last year which will hopefully help me a bit, especially in pre-season with my running - which is what I’m focusing on this pre-season,” Valente said.
“(My goals are) mainly just getting my first pre-season really under my belt, which I haven’t had since I’ve been here. If I can get that running base under my belt, hopefully, things will go my way.
“I pretty much got through last pre-season unscathed and haven’t had any issues since the end of the season, so I’m just hoping to build.”
Valente was also a victim of circumstance in 2020 as Freo’s non-selected players had limited opportunities to prove themselves.
In an interview last December, senior coach Justin Longmuir said that lack of opportunity most likely cost Valente a chance to debut in 2020.
“Unfortunately for Luke, but also all of our players this year that were playing in the reserves, they didn’t get to play an 18 on 18 game, so it was really hard to judge them and probably a little bit more difficult for them to develop in some aspects,” Longmuir said.
“We’re really impressed with the way Luke is growing in his football career. There was some real consideration into giving him a go at AFL level. We felt like he deserved an opportunity at AFL level this year but there was probably too many midfielders going well.
“We’ve got strong confidence that Luke can become not only a very good AFL footballer. He’s a person of high work ethic, high character and someone that’s going to really add to our group.”
That work ethic was on show through December when Valente was unable to commence training after staying an extra month in South Australia due to WA’s border restrictions.
Instead, Valente worked hard with three other South Australian teammates, as well as development coach Adam Read and strength and conditioning coach Brad Keller over the Christmas break.
“I did all my training in Adelaide for a couple of months, mainly with ‘Aishy’ (James Aish), ‘Coxy’ (Brennan Cox) and Michael Frederick,” Valente said.
“It was disappointing to miss the first two weeks. By Christmas, we had ‘Ready’ and Brad Keller joining us coaching wise.
“We had four of us over there so we were training together for that period and tried to emulate the footy stuff as best as we could.”
Fellow South Australian Stefan Giro made an earlier return from South Australia and Valente has been impressed with what his good friend and housemate is achieving on the track.
“He’s going really well. He’s flying at the moment. He always is. He’s extremely fit, training really hard and I think he’s really excited to just get a full pre-season under his belt and get into footy again. He came back half through last year and he’s going well.
“He’s going really well. He’s flying at the moment. He always is,” Valente said.
“He’s extremely fit, training really hard and I think he’s really excited to just get a full pre-season under his belt and get into footy again.”