Caleb Serong’s left foot might have provided the highlight of his 49th career game against Port Adelaide last Sunday, but the 21-year-old feels his left foot is where his improvement will come when looking at his career beyond his 50-game milestone match against St Kilda this Saturday night at Marvel Stadium.
Drafted at no.8 in the 2019 NAB AFL Draft and making his debut in round four of the 2020 season, Serong has missed just two games on the way to reaching his 50.
Serong’s goal from the left pocket at the Farmer Freeway End of Optus Stadium against Port Adelaide was good enough to win the Goal of the Year nomination for round 16, meaning he is in the running to go back-to-back after winning the award with his snap from the opposite pocket in last year’s round 22 RAC Derby.
But the 21-year-old says it takes some irrational confidence to back himself on his left foot, and feels this area is one way he can make himself more dangerous as a midfielder.
“I think sometimes there’s a bit of naivety to back yourself on the left, sometimes I probably should straighten up on my right,” Serong said.
“I’m working on it, I work hard on both feet and I hope in the future it can be a real strength of mine, where I can go both ways.
“At the moment I’m just trying to back myself to put myself in those situations out on the track and when I’m in that situation on game day, I can swing onto my left as it opens up the field a bit more.”
After winning the NAB Rising Star in 2020, Serong has continued to build from what was an impressive debut season.
He averaged 16.9 disposals per game in 2020 (with shortened quarters), 22.9 in 2021 and 25.9 so far in 2022.
His tackling game has increased markedly from 3.3 per game in 2021 to five per game in 2022, as has his contested possessions have risen from 9.3 to 11.5.
Serong has had a modest motivator that has kept him growing as a footballer.
“You don’t really know what to expect in your first few years, you get thrown into the deep end pretty quick and you’re just trying to adjust,” Serong said.
“I didn’t have any expectations, my one goal was once I played my first game was to try and stay in the team. That’s something that I’ve been focusing on since then and I’ve been able to do that, which has been pleasing.”
Serong feels his growth is being matched by the whole midfield group, particular Fremantle’s young core of Sean Darcy, Andrew Brayshaw and Will Brodie.
“I feel like I’ve been building and, as a midfield group overall we’ve had some really good success,” Serong said.
“We had a few down games, which will happen in a long season, but I feel like we’re all building together.
“The great thing about the midfield at the moment is it doesn’t matter who plays well or gets the touches and clearances, it feels like we’re celebrating each other and heading in the right direction.”