Fremantle backline leader Alex Pearce feels he can see incredible potential in a number of Freo’s emerging young defenders.
The 26-year-old played alongside Hayden Young for the first time late in 2021 and also praised first-year backs Heath Chapman and Brandon Walker when reflecting on the year.
Similar to Pearce, Young battled through injury in 2021 but returned late to be one of Freo’s most impressive and important players.
In a year when senior coach Justin Longmuir demanded consistency from his players, Young led the way with strong performances in both wins and losses.
“For Youngy have a significant injury (in round three) and then work his way back in, it's incredibly tough to do that and then to play his games for Peel and then come and perform the way did towards the back end of the year,” Pearce said.
“He hasn't had the string of games as others have had. If you look at him and (fellow 2020 draftee) Caleb Serong, Caleb's been able to play every game whereas Hayden's been very interrupted.
“What he's been able to do off the back of his interruptions has just been amazing. He's someone I'm really close with and I've loved all the work that he does on and off the field.
“I'm just hoping he gets a bit of luck, because when he strings it together, he'll be great to watch.”
Fremantle brought in Chapman and Walker at opposite ends of the draft, with Chapman going in the first round at no.14 and Walker late in the third round at no.50.
Pearce is yet to play with Chapman, who sustained a season-ending shoulder injury in round six, but said he couldn’t wait to join him on the field.
“I loved watching Chappy. He's obviously very talented, he's a great mark, quite skilful but he's really tough as well and that's what I value most, being really hard and being really competitive,” Pearce said.
“We haven't played together but we've got a pretty good relationship and I'm really excited to be able to train alongside him for the preseason.
“I can’t wait to see what he can do and how he can grow over the next few years, he's going to be great.”
Pearce praised Walker for his pace as a rebounding defender.
“We just saw flashes of what he can do and his great strength is his pace and his confidence to get the ball and run,” Pearce said.
“I feel like he gives us something that no one else can, and very few in the comp can do, with his speed.
“He needs to keep learning the game and a good thing with Walks is he's a very good listener and he takes feedback really well.
“I think with a full preseason of him learning a bit more about the game and a bit of structural stuff, it will just help him get more opportunities when he gets the ball in his hands to just take off and go.
“He'll give forwards lots of headaches.”
With Chapman returning from injury alongside the likes of Brennan Cox and Joel Hamling, Pearce said it would be an interesting pre-season as the group battles for round one selection.
“There's going to be a lot of guys fighting for spots. We'll have Brennan Cox, Joel Hamling fighting for those key positions spots, Chappy missed for large parts of the year, Ethan Hughes was out of the team for the last little bit as well and I think he'll be back in,” Pearce said.
“It's going to be very hotly contested and that's on the back of young guys really improving, Youngy forcing his way in, Walks doing exactly the same thing, coming from nowhere really and having such a big impact for us. It's going be very hard for the guys working their way back in and it's going be very hard for us who were in the team to stay in there as well.
“That competition is always what we're after.”