After being a regular in Fremantle’s midfield last year, Nick Lower faced a frustrating build-up to the 2012 season knowing he could not be selected for the opening two rounds.

The 24-year-old had two weeks remaining on a three-week ban for making forceful front-on contact to Collingwood’s Dale Thomas in round 23 last season and spent the summer knowing his second season at Fremantle would begin on the sidelines.

With his suspension served, Lower made his return to football with WAFL club Perth last Saturday and was impressive, finishing with 27 possessions and seven clearances playing midfield.

A shoulder reconstruction at the end of last season and some hiccups in his recovery also presented challenges for Lower through the pre-season, and he said he was simply glad to get a game under his belt.

“It’s been a frustrating pre-season in a way, not being able to play and having a few injuries along the way, but it was good to get out there and get that body contact again,” Lower said this week.

“I had the shoulder done just before the last game last year, and there were some minor issues here and there through the pre-season.

“That’s lengthened things out a bit, which is kind of frustrating, but it was nothing too serious and the one good thing out of it is that I was able to run the whole time.”

Lower wasn’t allowed to play in the WAFL while he served his suspension, so the last month has seen him take part in a series of match simulation sessions with sports science manager Jason Weber.

He described it as a solid month of training which he “probably needed” and said he was physically ready to push for a place in Fremantle’s engine room, which is returning to full-strength.

“Compared to last season we’re flying fit and everyone’s on the track, which is fantastic,” he said.

“It’s tight for spots, and we’ve got a fantastic midfield, so it’s going to be a tough one to crack into.

“Hopefully I can put a few performances together and play my way back into the side, but it’s not going to be an easy task, so I look forward to the challenge.”

Lower played 19 games last season as a mature-age rookie, adding to the 20 games he played at Port Adelaide between 2006 and 2009, and earning a spot on Fremantle’s senior list for 2012.

He said coach Ross Lyon had “wiped the slate clean”, opening opportunities for everybody on the list, and he was determined to work back into the senior team.

“I was given the opportunity to play through the midfield which is something I was always looking to do at Port, and I feel like I owe them (Fremantle) a lot,” he said.

“Ross has come in and wiped the slate clean, saying everyone has got the opportunity to play and the ball is in our court.

“That’s just buying into our game plan, the training standards we have. If you’re doing all those things right your opportunity will come and you’ve just got to take it with both hands.”

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