Richmond's Toby Nankervis says at times this year he worried he wouldn't be able to overcome his injury struggles, and is confident he and Ivan Soldo can continue to build a winning AFL ruck combination.
Nankervis missed 11 games with an adductor injury, with Soldo, Mabior Chol and Noah Balta all spending time at AFL level in the ruck during his absence.
Soldo in particular impressed, with the Tigers settling on the combination of the young ruck and Nankervis for their qualifying final win over Brisbane.
"I've played a little bit with Soldo a couple of years ago ... and he's come on so well," Nankervis told reporters.
"I suppose maybe outside it's been surprising how he's gone but internally he's probably put two or three years together of really solid work in pre-seasons and strong VFL footy.
"So internally he's so highly rated and I'm rapt with how he's come on and had some opportunity this year."
Against Brisbane, Nankervis and Soldo had 49 hitouts between them and the former said he was "really confident" the pair could build upon their partnership ahead of Friday's preliminary final against Geelong.
"Whether I'm first ruck or second ruck, I don't think it really matters," he said.
"And I think it's good to have him there and hopefully we can form a really strong combination together."
With Soldo in the side, Nankervis has had to spend time forward, but said he was happy to play "absolutely anywhere" after his tough injury run.
Nankervis returned via the VFL, then faced Carlton in round 21 before pulling up sore, missing two weeks and having to earn selection through the VFL once more.
"It's the first time I've been injured so it is different and we are faced with a lot of challenges but you are by yourself a lot of the time," he said.
"And I think I've grown and I'm confident with how I've gone about it and I'm confident in the work I've done."
He said his difficult return to AFL football had made him worry he wouldn't make it back for finals.
"It does creep in your mind, especially when you have little setbacks and that," Nankervis said.
"But I think there's great support around me and I just wanted to do absolutely everything I could and I'm confident I've done that."
Australian Associated Press