After being one of the standouts throughout the pre-season, Ben Ainsworth was primed for a big year in 2020.
The former number four draft pick had been burning up the track after playing 41 games in his first three seasons as a SUN.
But that number has been impacted by numerous injuries over the years, which spurred Ainsworth on to make a change.
“I had a fair few focusses, one was to play out the 22 games in the season,” Ainsworth told SUNS Media.
“Obviously I’ve had some injury setbacks throughout my three or four years at the club, so I just wanted to make sure that I was doing everything right off the field in terms of professionalism and preparation to set up for a good year.
“I think I’d done that prior to the season being suspended.”
How did he do it?
It came down to professionalism for the 22-year-old.
“I worked a lot with (club psychologist) Tristan and a lot of the coaches in terms of my professionalism,” he said.
“Just having a checklist almost of things I have to do weekly.
“There was a lot of individual focus as well, just setting individual-based goals and just making sure I was as professional as possible and learning off the likes of Brayden (Fiorini), Touk (Miller) and the guys who do it day in, day out.
“It’s not that I wasn’t doing it beforehand, it was just I wanted to take it to another level.”
The concept wasn’t anything new for Ainsworth.
Ever since he was drafted, the mid-forward has been a pillar of professionalism.
But his hunger to improve trumped that, and saw Ainsworth actively seek out things he could do to improve his body even more.
“I’ve always prided myself on professionalism but then I wasn’t playing enough games so I had to etch out a few things that I was doing wrong or not doing enough of,” he said.
“Stuff like more pilates, more stretching sessions, recovery during the week and nutrition.
“It’s just a matter of jogging your mind 24/7.”
While he hasn’t had the opportunity to showcase his game extensively this season yet, Ainsworth is still preparing for when that chance might come.
He said it was important to stick to the same routines and structure while the football was on hold.
“It’s going to be pretty easy for blokes to fall in a hole I suppose being at home 24/7,” he said.
“You’ve got the cupboard right around the corner and could be pigging out on food but it’s really important for everyone to stay disciplined.
“When we get back everyone has got to be ready and raring to go like it’s Round 1 again.”