Carlton halfback Zac Williams has opened up about a "year to forget" confronting injury, frustration and loss of family members on the journey back to playing in 2024.
The 29-year-old was sidelined through the Blues' long-awaited return to premiership contenders last season after being ruled out of their campaign with an ACL injury suffered last February.
Sitting down with Carlton's Summer Sessions podcast this week, Williams spoke candidly about a "tumultuous" period.
Williams lost his grandmother and his sister - who had fought a lengthy battle with cancer - in the previous 12 months.
He said alongside his mother, the support of "strong women" behind him have produced the person he is.
The defender credited the club with being by his side in the circumstances.
"It's been a year to forget, last year," Williams said.
"If I didn't have everyone here within the football club it would have made things a lot tougher.'
Williams expects to carry those adversities with him onto the park in some ways through 2024.
"That first game back, whenever it is, I'll definitely be wearing a black armband for her (his sister) and I'll probably wear it all year to be honest…and take her out with me.
"I've got a lot of motivation this year coming from knee rehab stuff and then also personal stuff as well."
He said "I know she's still here with me when I run out to play".
Williams went on to recount the often monotonous and "lonely" rehab process and empathised with Jack Silvagni - who was ruled out for the season after suffering his own ACL injury last week.
Back into full training ahead of the 2024 season, the 136-gamer is relishing the opportunity to push for selection with expectations around Carlton the highest in two decades.
He said he returned to his childhood Blues fandom with supporters last year, and enjoyed watching new faces succeed throughout the campaign.
Williams also addressed whispers amongst Carlton faithful of a defect to arch-rivals Collingwood during last year's grand final.
He insisted the love was exclusive to friend and former GWS teammate Bobby Hill, who kicked four on his way to lifting the premiership cup and Norm Smith Medal.
"No one should stress because when we play Collingwood, if I play on him the friendship goes out the door," Williams joked.
"I'm not a Pies supporter. I was a Bobby supporter, and Bobby fan during the grand final.
While "stoked" to see Hill's feats in September, Williams said "I'll definitely be making his life difficult when we play them".
Carlton open their season with a trip north for a preliminary final rematch with Brisbane on March 8.