FREMANTLE utility Garrick Ibbotson has been earmarked to spend more time in defence in 2013 as the club looks to replace retired backman Adam McPhee.
Ibbotson, who has enjoyed an uninterrupted pre-season, pushed into the midfield in 2012, registering career-high clearances and 17 disposals a game.
However, the 24-year-old said he was likely to play a more defensive role this season after the departures of McPhee, Greg Broughton and Dylan Roberton.
"I played a little bit midfield last year, with some defence as well, but losing Adam McPhee and a few other guys at the end of last season, I think I'll play a little bit more defence," Ibbotson said on Wednesday.
McPhee was a key cog in Fremantle's backline last season, playing 21 games and often shutting down opposition small forwards and resting midfielders.
The 223-game veteran signed a one-year contract extension for 2013 but announced his retirement shortly after, returning to Melbourne for family reasons.
Ibbotson, who stands 188cm, said he was likely to play more as a running defender than a lockdown third tall.
He nominated teammate Nick Suban as another player who could bolster the backline after 14 games in a variety of roles last season.
"Nick Suban is looking really good in the midfield and could come back and play that [backline] role if need be," Ibbotson said.
"Tommy Sheridan has been training really well. He's a fantastic runner and works really hard off half-back, and Haiden Schloithe has been doing the same sort of thing.
"Lee Spurr has taken leaps and bounds again … I'm sure we can fill those sorts of roles."
Ibbotson, who has played 102 games since making his debut in 2007, said he was relishing a clean bill of health as Fremantle completes a demanding pre-season.
"In comparison to last year I feel really good," he said.
"Last year I'd come off two operations – a shoulder and a hernia – and I had been in rehab for almost the whole pre-season.
"I've had time to train with the group for the whole pre-season, so at the moment I feel really good."
Nathan Schmook is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_Nathan
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