Jack Viney: The ultimate athlete

In the bowels of the AAMI Park gymnasium, Melbourne's Jack Viney attacks his weights with the same vigor he hunts down opponents on the field.

The explosive midfielder -- who is "pound for pound definitely the best lifter" at the Demons, according to the club's strength and conditioning manager Robert Jackson -- takes the same approach to every gym session as he does on game day.

It's just the way he is.

Viney has played a pivotal role in the Demons' resurgence in Paul Roos' final year as coach. In many ways, the 22-year-old personifies his club's rise up the ladder this season.

Taken at the bargain selection of pick No.26 in the 2012 national draft, Viney has this year transformed himself from hard trier to one of the premium midfielders in the competition. League-wide, he's ranked 13th in contested possessions per game, eighth in tackles, and 13th in clearances per match.

He was at his ferocious best in Melbourne's drought-breaking win against Hawthorn in Round 20, collecting 39 touches (16 contested) at 82 percent efficiency, eight tackles, seven clearances and five marks. Aside from his statistics, his physical intent set the tone as Melbourne beat Hawthorn for the first time since Round 8, 2006.

A career-high 16 tackles against the Western Bulldogs in Round 8 was another highlight, along with the 23 contested possessions -- another career-high -- racked up in Round 5 against Richmond.

In fact, if it were not for a brainfade in Round 10 that saw him cop a one-week suspension, Viney could be a Brownlow Medal chance as season 2016 draws to a close -- which highlights his incredible improvement.

Aside from his natural footballing ability, Viney's work ethic at Melbourne is legendary.

"When he's down in the gym, he's there to beat anyone," Jackson tells ESPN. "He competes with everyone and even himself. He's very aggressive in the way he attacks his weights, attacks his training and is always looking at a way to get an improvement.

"The other thing he does which is quite unique is he's always researching what other people do and trying to mimic professional approaches. He does his research, he comes with questions and I couldn't ask for more to be honest."

Those who know Viney often shake their head in admiration at the son of former club great Todd's absolute commitment to improve.

Whenever Viney fearlessly burrows into packs, often emerging with a hard-won Sherrin, or locks his arms around an opponent in a vice-like tackle, those behind the scenes nod knowingly.

Melbourne veteran Lynden Dunn, for one, isn't surprised by his elevation into the top bracket of the AFL's best inside midfielders.

"He's grown up loving the club - Todd, his old man captained the club, so he [Jack] has always being around the place and the players," the defender told ESPN. "He is ultra-competitive, he always means business, he's courageous, tough, hard.

"He can come across a little bit arrogant to some people but knowing him now, he's just very confident in his preparation and performances on game day.

"I've got no doubt he'll be All Australian and a multiple best and fairest winner by the end of his career. It's not luck - he takes ownership of his career and works so hard."

Before being drafted, Viney spent time at Melbourne as a 17-year old in 2012, receiving permission to train with the club and play for its VFL affiliate Casey. Mark Neeld was the Demons' coach that year, and in 2013 before being sacked midway through the season.

Neeld, now game performance manager at Essendon, said he knew from an early stage that Viney would become a star midfielder.

"He's a beauty. He comes from really strong family, and the things I saw with Jack as a young player - his work ethic and determination - are the things everyone is seeing on the footy field now," Neeld told ESPN.

"He was always in a hurry, Jack, but he's everything you want in a player in terms of determination, work ethic, leadership, the want to get better ... he's got it.

"I'm not surprised he's become one of the premier midfielders in the competition."

Jackson is also unsurprised at the midfielder's rise. The strength and conditioning boss has regularly been wowed by Viney's intensity in the gym.

"Jack's very aggressive in his pursuit of becoming excellent," he said.

"If you look back to his early years before he was even playing TAC Cup, he was already going to see a sprint coach at the Hawthorn Football Club who is now the high performance manager at Richmond, Peter Burge. He was always trying to find an edge.

"He's an intimidating person. He's very strong, he's very powerful, he's very aggressive on the field ... and down in the gym he demands that of other people - he demands people put in effort and if someone's lifting and he thinks they could possibly put more on or they could have done another rep, then he'll have no shame in voicing that.

"In terms of leadership in the gym, I think just through his own actions and the way he approaches gym sessions, [he] is a real benchmark for others."

Dunn said it wasn't just in the gym that Viney's leadership qualities were evident, with the defender confident the emerging tyro would eventually take the captaincy from Nathan Jones.

"There's plenty of good young leaders coming through [at Melbourne] but Jack would definitely be a candidate for the captaincy," Dunn said.

"Nathan Jones is doing a super job at the moment and has plenty of good footy left in him but when the time comes to hand it over, I'm sure Jack will be one of the strongest candidates."