AFTER an injury interrupted year, Zak Butters has set his sights on more midfield time for Port Adelaide in 2022 and he is using the off-season to improve his running and get stronger.

Butters – who weighed just 69kgs when he arrived at Alberton with pick 12 in the 2018 AFL National Draft – was restricted to 12 games in 2021 after injuring his knee and ankle in the Round 4 win over Richmond.

After some time off to digest Port Adelaide’s preliminary final exit, Butters ventured to Perth with West Australian forward Mitch Georgiades for a break.

Now back home in the Victorian town of Bacchus Marsh, the 21-year-old is back working hard in the gym – looking to add to his now 75kg frame - with an eye to stepping his game up a level next season.

“It’s a really important time of year for us young players who are trying to take that next step and become dominant players in the league,” Butters explained to Dylan Buckley on his podcast Dyl & Friends.

“For me it’s putting on some more weight and getting bigger in the gym. That’s probably my main thing. At the moment I’m just working hard in the gym and improving my running.

“I’m trying to eye some more midfield time, which in our team is going to be pretty hard to do but I want to get bigger and stronger to mix it with the big boys in there.

“Luckily, I’m fit and healthy, the injuries have been this year so I can just attack the off-season and get better.”

Butters averaged 19 disposals, four marks and three clearances per game in 2021, sharing his time between the midfield and forward line.

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Goal of the Week: Round 21 | PTV

Rozee and Butters combine for an important goal against the Crows.

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Port Adelaide’s General Manager – Football, Chris Davies publicly stated the club’s desire for him and fellow 2018 draftees Connor Rozee and Xavier Duursma to share the midfield load with Travis Boak, Karl Amon and Brownlow Medallist Ollie Wines, and Butters is up for the challenge.

“I just want to go to that next level and become one of the dominant players in the AFL,” Butters said.

“That’s my next goal and that’s what I’m working really hard toward in this off-season, (taking) my running and gym to the next level and speaking with the club in the post-season, getting more time in that midfield.

“I think I can help our team in there and bring my strengths, that’s attacking the game, being clean and being quick and helping us around the stoppages, getting the ball moving forward.”

As well as gym work and extra running, Butters is working hard on his golf game.

Describing himself as “ultra-competitive”, the tenacious small has set up a practice hole in the backyard of his parents’ home, and admits he still has a way to go to challenge some of the better players at the club.

“I have been trying to grow my golf game so I just said to Dad, I’ll jump on the ride on (mower) and mow a little green,” he said.

“It’s (only) about 50 metres (long). You don’t want to miss long.

“I have bladed a few that have trickled near the road so that’s stopped the heart a few times and had Mum and Dad shaking their head. They weren’t too impressed with it.

“Sorry to all my neighbours and all the people in Bacchus Marsh. Watch out.”