After requiring shoulder injections every week last year, Gold Coast forward Tom Berry has returned to Carrara this pre-season "fitter and stronger" than he ever has.

Berry underwent surgery to cut his 2023 campaign short last August, a decision made to get the 23-year-old in the best shape possible for the coming year.

After moving from Brisbane, Berry's maiden season with the Suns saw him endure high levels of discomfort due to a present shoulder concern, with treatment needed in the aftermath of each weekend.

The Horsham junior was still able to play six games at senior level, but his ongoing ailment limited his ability to bring his "bash-and-crash" game to the Suns.

"It was probably a bit of a learning year for me," Berry told Zero Hanger. 

"I would've liked to have played a bit more AFL footy than I did. I wasn't able to train pretty much all year, I was getting injections in my shoulder each week.

"So it was that balance of getting up for the weekend, playing through discomfort and then back to square one the next week with some rest and recovery.

"It was a challenging and different year. I've never really experienced having to play through injury from Round 1 until the end of the season.

"It probably affected how I was able to play. I'm more of that bash-and-crash player, so it made it quite difficult to do that."

Returning from an off-season - one that included raising $80,000 for Breast Cancer Network Australia alongside brothers Jarrod and Joel - Berry is feeling in the best shape of his six-year career.

An improved running capacity has also opened the window for the small forward to potentially drift through Damien Hardwick's midfield pack this year, but Berry knows it'll be no easy task to return to the Suns' AFL side given the squeeze for spots.

"I've come back fitter and stronger this year than I ever have. I've built up my running capacity, so it's given me a bit of an opportunity to go through the midfield and get around the ball a bit more," Berry added.

"But nailing that role as a small forward is my main focus. Trying to become a regular in that AFL side. There's a few boys fighting for that position, it's a competitive area for us.

"For me, it's just about continuing to work on my craft and bring the strengths of my game too.

"Dimma has made it quite clear what I need to bring. We've sat down and had a chat, he's all about bringing your strengths and that's what I'll do."

After witnessing the Lions' rise to premiership contention first-hand across four years with Brisbane, Berry was only made to feel "proud" to see his brother and ex-teammates find themselves on the biggest stage last September against Collingwood.

Berry was also forced to sit and watch the Suns' VFL premiership win from the stands the week prior, only adding to his hunger to get a look at finals action.

From what he's seen at the Suns so far under Hardwick, Berry believes his side won't be far from making their own flag tilt.

"The reason we play is for premierships, whether that's AFL or VFL," he said.

"I'd love to play in one of those (grand finals). I was really excited for Jarrod and some of my close mates, and then for the VFL it was just really exciting for the club.

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"It was a proud moment to be part of the club's success, even though I didn't get to play due to my injury.

"... I feel like we've got a really strong list this year, any one of us can go out there and play their role at AFL level. It's going to be really tough to get a game, but that's what happens when you start to become a really good club.

"We've got some good young guys coming through. The new Academy boys, there's some stuff they can do that's really exciting. Everyone's pushing down the door, which is what helps make a strong club."

Berry and the Suns start their new era under Hardwick against Richmond for Opening Round on Saturday, March 9.