IT ALL came out of the blue for Tim Mohr.
What was initially a ``weird'' feeling in his right ankle in early December turned out to be a stress fracture for Greater Western Sydney's Launceston key-defender.
Surgery to insert a screw has meant plenty of time in the gym, with the 25-year-old only recently starting running again, and the plan to return to full training in the next fortnight.
Mohr, known as much for his facial hair as his prowess on the field, is aiming for a senior return for the Giants about round 5, after having at least a couple of weeks in the second-tier NEAFL competition.
While obviously disappointed to have his preseason disrupted, Mohr was last week thankful that it was an injury that happened in December rather than when it could have cost him a lot more of the season.
``It won't be too much of a setback, as I've still been training as hard as the other blokes,'' Mohr told The Examiner .
``It was frustrating at the time, but you do get over that feeling in about a week or so.
``The next few weeks is just going to be flat-out running, then a couple of weeks in and out of training and then hopefully by the third or fourth week I'll be back to full-on training.
``It's the first time I've ever had any problems [with stress fractures], and I think it was just after playing 22 games last year and all that training, it was the workload that just forced it to go.''
Coach Leon Cameron will be desperate to have Mohr available, as he has developed into the leading light of the expansion club's defence over his 35 games.
Drafted from Casey in the VFL in 2011, Mohr has one simple aim each week - to beat his direct opponent. That list of opponents last year included Lance Franklin, Jack Riewoldt, Chris Mayne, Michael Hurley, Drew Petrie, Liam Jones, Jay Schulz, Tom Hawkins, Josh Kennedy and Adam Goodes.
He was one of only two Giants (with ruckman Jonathan Giles) to play all 22 games.
He led the club for intercept marks and possessions, spoils and rebound 50s, but did concede the most goals (41), a forgivable statistic considering the amount of ball that came his way.
Mohr's highlights included his shutdown job on Franklin in Launceston in round 8 and his career-best 24-disposal afternoon against Essendon a fortnight earlier, performances that have helped make Mohr feel comfortable at the level.
``The ball came in a lot more to our backline than a lot of other clubs last year, so [we] were under pressure a lot,'' he said.
``I was pretty happy with my own game, as were the coaching staff. There were a few games where my opponent had the better of me, but all-in-all I thought I had a pretty good year.
``My first year I was uncomfortable coming up against the blokes I'd watched on TV, but I'm definitely comfortable with it now and I feel like I can match it with the best quite easily.''
Mohr enjoyed watching his teammates thrash St Kilda by 68 points in their last NAB Challenge match, with the Giants wrapping up their preseason with an eight-point loss to Adelaide on Friday.
But Mohr said there was a positive feeling around the club ahead of Cameron's first season in charge.
He said from a defensive structure point-of-view, the team was working on chop-outs, swapping over on opponents and getting in a better position, while there had been a skill-based focus exiting defence.
``We look a lot fitter, we've got a lot stronger and we're running out games a lot better,'' he said.
``We're going to go into every game thinking we can win it.
``We don't want to be known as just a talented group anymore, we want to be known as a group that is hard at the ball and not soft in attitude.''
--IN THE EXAMINER WEDNESDAY: Your 24-page AFL and Tassie Football Guide, including ALEX FAIR'S ladder prediction.