Fremantle ruckman Aaron Sandilands has scoffed at suggestions AFL players have too much time on their hands in the wake of the St Kilda drug controversy.

The Saints suspended Zac Dawson, Paul Cahill, Jack Steven and Rhys Stanley for six weeks after the quartet were caught mixing sleeping pills with alcohol during a recent training camp in New Zealand.

The incident has reignited calls to address the off-field antics of professional footballers, particularly young players, who have been accused by some sections of the AFL and medical fraternities for having no focus outside of the game.

But Sandilands said he and his Docker teammates rarely find an opportunity to catch their breath because of the training demands required to be a professional athlete in the public eye.

“I didn’t have much spare time on my hands (when I first started) because every spare minute I had, Dad had me pushing lawn mowers around,” he said.

“I remember my first year as a rookie wasn’t quite as full on as what it is now, but any spare three or four hours I got I was back on the lawn mower trying to make ends meet.

“At the moment we’re at the club six days a week, between three and four sessions a week. There’s not a lot of spare time and when you do go home you seem to be sleeping, trying to recover for your next session.”

Speaking to the media after training at Fremantle Oval today, Sandilands revealed he is being encouraged to lose weight in a bid to curtail the knee and foot injuries that have hampered him in previous seasons.

Sandilands injured his knee in Fremantle’s win over Hawthorn in the first week of last year’s finals series and had experienced plantar fasciitis problems during the season.

But 211cm giant is adamant he has overcome those concerns and is a near-perfect picture of fitness and health.

Sandilands, who weighed in at 122kg at the start of last season, said his ideal playing weight was now between 118kg and 120kg.

“In the early years I smashed the weights and this time it’s more about losing weight than putting on weight,” he said.

“I think I rocked up to the club about 106-107kg.

“We’ve got three full-time physios and three full-time fitness staff and they keep a close eye on where your body weight is at. I know my body pretty well now and when I start getting sore they rest me up a bit.”

Sandilands said the two byes fixtured into the season to cater for new team Gold Coast Suns would help him manage any injury troubles, but he doesn’t expect his ground time to be cut.

Fremantle is expected to utilise Adelaide recruit Jonathon Griffin and emerging talent Zac Clarke more this season to support Sandilands.

“I prefer being out on the ground than being on the bench, but if means being able to play a full season then a few more minutes on the bench won’t hurt,” Sandilands said.

“I think it all depends on how the new interchange rule works, but I’m happy to be out there as much as possible.”

Fremantle plays West Coast and Hawthorn in a double header in the opening round of the NAB Cup at Patersons Stadium on February 13.

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