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Pilates keeps Ballas in top shape

Ballantyne's forward line assessment Hayden Ballantyne talks to the media ahead of training

Hayden Ballantyne has renewed confidence in his body since taking up Pilates, and the Fremantle veteran believes playing in a refurbished attack will work in his favour.

The 31-year-old will enter next season as the third-oldest Docker behind Aaron Sandilands (36 on Thursday) and David Mundy (33) after signing a one-year contract extension in August.

Ballantyne jumped at the chance to go around again and believes he can get more dangerous crumbing to recruits Jesse Hogan and Rory Lobb.

"If you look at the start of last year when Matty Taberner was up and flying how good our whole forward line was working, in particular us smalls, we could get to the feet of him and know where the ball was going to go," Ballantyne said.

"To have, really, three big, strong power forwards to get the ball into and crumb off and just to create a contest is something really positive for the team.
"Really excited to getting them down there and competition for spots there is only a good thing, I think."

Ballantyne's 2017 was restricted by repeat hamstring woes, but he took up Pilates after advice from games record holder Matthew Pavlich and got through last season unscathed aside from an ankle setback.

The 168-gamer made 17 appearances this year, however he could face stiffer competition for spots after the arrivals of Essendon speedster Travis Colyer and mature draftee Lachlan Schultz.

Ex-Sun Brandon Matera and Sam Switkowski, whose 2018 was wrecked by repeat hamstring trouble, will also hope to improve on their debut seasons in purple.

But Ballantyne – who finished only one major behind leading goalkicker Michael Walters (22) last year – is up for the fight.

He returned to summer training in good nick, and is relishing Freo's back to basics approach which served Ross Lyon's outfit well during the club's most successful era between 2012-15.

"I always try and prepare the best I can over the off-season. I went on a cruise over the break and could only run on a treadmill, so I was running pretty hard on the treadmills and trying to get as fit as I could," Ballantyne said.

"I came back, ran a pretty good time trial and I'm feeling really good about getting around the ground.

"Pilates has been really good for me and with all the soft-tissues I've had over my career, I prevented them last year pretty much so it's been a big step forward for me and keeping a bit of flexibility and strength in my legs, and hammies in particular.

"Obviously inconsistency was across the board for the team and for myself (last season), so obviously when the team plays well it makes it easier for us as forwards to play well as well.

"We've set our sights high and we're optimistic of how well we're training at the moment.

"Our plan is to be fit and available for round one and all be on the same page. 

"If we can achieve that, who knows what can happen."

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs