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Sonny eyes more midfield minutes

Fremantle star Michael Walters has put his hand up for more midfield minutes in 2019. - Fremantle,Fremantle Dockers,Michael Walters
Fremantle star Michael Walters has put his hand up for more midfield minutes in 2019.

Fremantle star Michael Walters has put his hand up for more midfield minutes as the Dockers contemplate how to replace Lachie Neale after his departure to Brisbane.  

Walters has boosted his onball presence over the past two years and spent 40 per cent of game time in the engine room last season, up from 23 per cent in 2016, according to Champion Data.

The quandary for coach Ross Lyon is finding the right balance, with Walters providing Freo's most dangerous ground-level attacking threat.

Many expect Connor Blakely to shift from half-back to help pick up the slack left by Neale, who averaged 30.3 disposals – half of them contested – and seven clearances last season.

But Walters, the match-turning left footer who won the club's goalkicking with 22 majors, is eyeing an expanded midfield role.

"It's pretty exciting for myself. There's a spot in there, but we've got a lot of young players that can come in and fill that as well," Walters told AFL.com.au.

"Midfield-forward, I'll probably be swinging in and out of there like I did last year and the year before that.

"Connor's an in-an-under player. He's a gut runner, he's strong, he knows the midfield craft, so he's one of the players I can see going in there and definitely filling that void Lachie left."

While Walters was disappointed to bid Neale farewell, he was excited by Freo's NAB AFL Trade Period acquisitions and is eager to join main training with a band of new teammates in the new year after nursing his left knee so far this pre-season.

He has used the pre-Christmas training block to get stronger and wants to step up his contested ball and stoppage work after averaging 8.7 contested possessions and 2.7 clearances. 

"Definitely (want to improve) my inside stuff. I am a small player. At times I got frustrated last year, got suspended as well," he said.

"Little things like that where I can add a different aspect to my game, which is being a stronger body but also fit as well.

"I don’t want to get too big also, because I don't want to lose my speed.

"Just more powerful in my running as well. I haven't really been the best runner, but that's something I want to work on this year.

"I wouldn't say I'm the worst, but if I'm going to go into midfield I need to be elite at that.

"My leadership can get better as well. I'm not the perfect player, there's always room to move."

Michael Walters


FWD   MID  DEF  GOALS  DISPOSALS      

2016   77%    23%   0%     36     18.2

2017   62%    38%   0%     22     19.3

2018   58%    40%   2%     22     19.8      

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