Bailey Banfield is hopeful his versatility will earn him plenty of game time in 2022 as he looks to build from a frustrating but promising year.
After playing six of the final seven rounds, missing one game due to concussion, the 190cm the forward / midfielder was rewarded with a one-year rookie deal for 2022.
His versatility was on show in two of his best recent performances, kicking three goals against Hawthorn in round 17 and going into the midfield as a tagger on Tim Kelly in Fremantle’s round 22 RAC Derby win.
“I think one of my strengths is I’m really versatile player, I can play up the ground, inside and can play all forward roles as well,” Banfield said.
“It’s a string to my bow I guess, it depends on where the need is and hopefully, as long as I’m playing round one, it doesn’t really bother me.”
The 23-year-old looked set for a round one berth in March when his season was turned upside down with an ankle injury sustained in a Marsh Community Series game against West Coast at Optus Stadium.
After recovering from the ankle injury, he played five WAFL games for Peel before making his Fremantle return against Hawthorn.
It was his first AFL game since round eight of the 2020 season and Banfield said he had battled some personal demons on the way back.
“There’s a bit of pressure that builds and contract pressure as well, just not being sure as well if you’re up to it. I think that confidence does dip just naturally when you’re in those positions,” Banfield said.
“It was good to get a win and get my first game in a while out of the way as well. I think I kicked a couple of goals in the first quarter which helped get the ball rolling and it gets a bit easier from there.
“It was really powerful, I think for me personally, to know that I can go out there and put in a good performance and play some good footy.”
Banfield said the upcoming pre-season would be especially important for Fremantle as they look to deliver more consistently.
“It’s a period of growth for us as a club and we’ve identified that we need to get stronger and harder. Not only the running program but in the gym as well, it will be a real area of focus for us over the break and then over pre-season as well,” Banfield said.
“You look at our last month of footy and it was really up and down. We won some really big games and then had some disappointing losses in the aftermath of those.
“As a Club, we’re just looking to be more consistent, we know that our best is good enough and we’ve seen the level that we can get to, we just want to be able to maintain that.
“The work that goes into maintaining that consistency is over theses early portions in the off-season. In the pre-season, we lay that foundation, we learn the game plan and embed that even further.
“It’s building our bodies to be able to maintain that consistent standard for 23 rounds, which is what the best teams and do and what we’re looking to do next year.”