Brayden Fiorini is ready to fight for his spot in Gold Coast's best side after returning to the SUNS following his floated trade to Collingwood last year.
In a hectic trade and free agency period Fiorini was a feature until he settled on heading back to Gold Coast and pushing to be a part of the SUNS' higher ambitions this season.
Collingwood was interested in Fiorini, who was contracted at the SUNS for 2023, and the Victorian midfielder met with the Magpies and other clubs as he assessed his options.
He spoke with the SUNS and coach Stuart Dew about what opportunities could be available, with Gold Coast open to striking a trade if it worked, but as the Pies narrowed their focus on Hawthorn ball-getter Tom Mitchell, Fiorini grew more likely to stay at the SUNS.
"I started the year in the ones last year and played probably the first half and then found myself in and out of the side again. It's probably been a constant theme over the last few years for me being on the borderline a bit," he told AFL.com.au.
"It was more just a mature and respectful conversation with 'Dewy'. He's been pretty honest with me and likewise, it was more if there was more opportunity elsewhere to potentially guarantee me more of an opportunity then we should look at it. But we kept in contact throughout the trade period and it eventuated that I stayed and I was really happy with that as well.
"I think both parties secretly wanted that, for me to stay here, and I love it here and I hope they say the same about me being here. I'm glad it ended that way."
"I was hoping that it didn't get portrayed that I really wanted out of the club, especially for my teammates as well. If I was to end up here I didn't want them to think that I wanted to leave. I think it got portrayed pretty well and all parties were respectful and honest about it," he said.
"I had a chat to [Collingwood] and a couple of other teams and it was probably in the early stages with most of them but throughout the trade period there was a bit of the unknown.
"Towards the last few days Dewy was really on the front foot with me and called me a few times and reiterated that they really did want me to stay in the end.
"He wasn't going to hold me back if there was opportunity for me, but I'd never been in that position so there were some stressful days there. Dewy was really conscious of me not feeling like I wasn't wanted here which was really good."
The 25-year-old played 10 games in 2021 and 14 last season and has been determined to break into the SUNS' line-up this year as the club shoots for a finals berth for the first time.
He has had an uninterrupted pre-season, working on improving his speed and running power and being damaging with the ball, with Fiorini's eyes on capturing a spot.
"You have to cherish every moment and not accept that I'm going to play VFL all year and try to press my case for AFL footy again this year and have a real impact," he said.
"From conversations we've had in meetings and just the dialogue and changeroom talk, it feels like we're in a good spot here at the moment. We've laid really good foundations in the last few years."