Fremantle captain Nat Fyfe will push for selection against Hawthorn next Saturday after getting through his WAFL return unscathed and showing several flourishes of his midfield class.
Fyfe played 87 minutes for Peel Thunder on Saturday in his first game for 10 months following shoulder and back surgeries, declaring after the game that he had felt rusty and made the right call to come back through the WAFL.
The dual Brownlow medallist still finished with a team-high 24 disposals in the clash at Leederville Oval, leading a thrilling comeback as the Thunder won their first game against Subiaco since the 2017 Grand Final.
Fyfe said he would now spend the early part next week segregated from the main Fremantle group due to COVID precautions before training on Wednesday or Thursday and pushing for AFL selection.
"I felt a long way off my best and this gave me a good stepping stone back to AFL … it was the right call," Fyfe said after the game.
"It's going to take five or six weeks to get back feeling really comfortable. There were a couple of times where I reached for the ball and my shoulder didn't quite feel how I remember it two operations ago.
"So I've got a little bit of touch and craft to get back. (But) it feels like I've got no real niggles in my joints, back or shoulder. I feel good."
Everyone wants a bit of Nat Fyfe after the final siren of his return match as Peel Thunder snatch a six-point win over the Subiaco Lions in the @WAFLOfficial 🙌— AFL (@AFL) June 4, 2022
Fyfe got through unscathed with 24 touches, 5 marks and 4 tackles ⚓ pic.twitter.com/5ZOV59hiMS
Fyfe was mobbed by fans immediately after the final siren, with Peel ending a seven-game losing run against the Lions on the back of three goals from young Docker Josh Treacy.
Fyfe had a set shot from 45m deep in the fourth quarter to win the game but miscued, with Treacy eventually kicking what proved to be the decisive goal, sealing a stunning comeback win.
Despite originally planning to play a split midfield and forward role, Fyfe attended every centre bounce when he was on the ground and rarely drifted forward.
He was tagged heavily by former Sydney midfielder Harry Marsh, but broke free for some key stoppage involvements and crisp inside 50s to set up scoring opportunities.
The 30-year-old said he welcomed the close attention from Marsh and the physicality of the game after struggling to replicate the experience in training.
"To have a run-with role and a few big collisions gives me some good confidence in my shoulder," he said.
"I started to find my feet a bit at stoppage and contest and started to read it OK in the air, but pretty much everything felt rusty.
"Clearly I've got some work to do in front of goal. But outside of that, most of today was just get some minutes under my belt.
"My role will look to evolve as I get back to form in the AFL."
Fyfe's WAFL return was a big day for the state league, which enjoyed a bumper crowd of 2,834 and significant media exposure around the event.
"It was great for WA footy to have so many people turn out," said Fyfe, who played his four previous WAFL games with Claremont as a teenage Fremantle draftee.
"This is where I started my AFL career, playing WAFL footy in 2010, so to come back to this system and play was a really special day for me and I hope everyone else enjoyed it."