Shane Mumford is on track for a successful return from an ankle reconstruction, but admits he became sidetracked in some pre-season sessions watching his future sister-in-law's progress at the Australian Open.
The GWS Giants ruckman had little interest in tennis before he met Eva Konta, whose sister Johanna reached the semi-final of the major tournament before losing to eventual champion Angelique Kerber.
"I love playing tennis but I could never sit there and watch a full game," says Mumford, who was in Melbourne with Eva to barrack for his relative-to-be in the biggest match of her career.
"But I'm starting to really get into it now. I wouldn't have watched this much tennis in my life, as I did watching this Aus Open. I ended up watching live streams on the app when I was supposed to be doing weights."
Mumford's humour is legendary but he has reason to be cheery now. Apart from becoming engaged to Eva late last year, his recovery from major surgery to AFL-level fitness – not easy in your late 20s – has gone smoothly.
"I knew it was quite a serious injury but I always knew I was going to get back," he says of the concerns for his playing future after the round 11 clash with Collingwood last year.
"I was told it was going to be OK. The surgeon told me I might lose a bit of range of motion but it was never going to be anything that would stop me from playing again. To hear that put me in good spirits."
The 128-game ex-Swans premiership player worked on upper body strength while the deltoid ligament and peroneal tendon in his ankle repaired. He began running in early pre-season and was gradually reintroduced to the main group skills sessions shortly before Christmas.
"It was just about making sure everything was 100 per cent before I re-joined the group and risked doing some form of injury again. We made sure we ticked all the boxes," he says.
Coach Leon Cameron, who signed a two-year contract extension this week, paid tribute to Mumford's work ethic.
"His rehab has been really good, whether he's been out on the ground or cross-training," Cameron said.
"But we're mindful that we've got to manage his body well because it's been beaten around a fair bit over his career. He's in full training now, he's trained exceptionally well over the past few weeks."
The club's caution is understandable. This week, in a story on afl.com.au, the 106-kilogram, 197-centimetre powerhouse was statistically shown to be more important to his team than any player in the AFL.
"A few people have brought up that story," Mumford says. "They're saying I wrote it and sent it in."
His return, adding to the presence of star recruit, Geelong triple-premiership player Steve Johnson, is a positive sign for the young club. The Giants were sitting pretty in fifth when Mumford got injured but finished 11th.
"It was always going to be tough for us. It wasn't just me who was out, we lost four guys in that one game," he says.
"But the young guys that came in really stepped up and played well at times. It was a great opportunity for them to get a taste of it. They know what's expected now, what you need to be able to do to play at that AFL level week after week."
Mumford refused to be drawn on whether a debut finals appearance would be this season's marker of success, saying the goal must simply be to keep improving. One thing GWS can be certain of is the support of the Konta sisters.
"Johanna said she's going to start watching a bit of football now. She told me she looks at the Giants app to see how we're going. I'm not sure if she's ever seen a game though. I think she's a bit like my fiancee – she's got no idea what I actually do."