- HBF injury update: Apeness tracking well
- Neale polls top votes in coaches' award
- McCarthy enjoying balance between footy and family
As an emerging player in a deep Fremantle midfield, Connor Blakely knew he’d be battling for a place in the starting 22 for season 2017.
The 21-year-old worked hard on building his endurance in the off-season, and has featured in all four rounds so far.
And over the past fortnight, senior coach Ross Lyon has made Blakely responsible for limiting the impact of some of the AFL’s best midfielders.
In Fremantle’s wins against the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne, Blakely played a tagging role on star Bulldog Marcus Bontempelli and Demons co-captain Nathan Jones.
Throwing Blakely into the deep end has played well into Fremantle’s objective of developing younger players.
“I think when I’m given a (tagging) role it definitely helps me improve my defensive game,” Blakely said.
“Ross has said he wants to see is me growing in that area, and we think the offensive side will take care of itself.
“If I keep applying myself to that job and keep taking this opportunity, I can only improve.”
With the 21-year-old working hard in the contest, Freo’s more experienced midfielders David Mundy and Lachie Neale have had the chance to rotate through the forward line.
On Saturday at the MCG, Mundy and Neale combined for seven goals in the two-point win over Melbourne.
The Swan Districts product racked up 23 disposals while limiting Jones to 18 touches.
“(Jones) ran pretty hard so I was focusing on staying close to him in the clearances,” Blakely said.
“When you’re playing on a good player they’re going to take you to the ball. I felt like if I’m at the contest with Jones, more often than not I’m going to have a chance to win the ball, too.
“He’s obviously a good player so it was good to keep him to 18 touches. All I can do is do my job for the team and if I can do that I’m happy.”