Fremantle coach Ross Lyon has brushed off criticism over Nat Fyfe's defensive workrate, declaring opposition teams have been trying to exploit the superstar "for the last eight years".
In recent weeks, premiership coaches Paul Roos and Mick Malthouse have praised Fyfe's offensive capability but highlighted how rival midfielders are trying to expose him away from stoppages.
Roos said he had spoken to opposition coaches who had tried to exploit Fyfe when their team had the ball and described his two-way running was "bottom-end", while Malthouse was also critical of the Brownlow medallist's defensive work.
But Lyon, who denied speaking to "close friend" Roos about his players, leapt to the Freo captain's defence, stating clubs had systems in place to allow the competition's big guns to maximise their strengths.
"I was (an assistant coach) at Carlton when (Anthony) Koutoufides was the most dominant player in the competition, and we coached against Michael Voss … and (James) Hird," Lyon said.
"Opposition midfields are always trying to take the best midfielders away from the ball and forward.
"Back sixes just stay in place, you have cover set up.
"(With) Koutoufides, Carlton had two or three players set up for when they ran him forward.
"It really is about maximising your strength, keeping it where you want, in simple terms for the lay person, and I think that's what Paul was alluding to.
"If you really analyse Richmond, but I'm not here to map it out for you, they have a system set up to allow Dustin (Martin) to be as offensive as he can and complement the defensive side so he doesn't have to worry about it as much.
"But that's not my job to break that down for you, but that clearly exists within the AFL."
After receiving nine AFL Coaches Association votes in round one, Fyfe (31 disposals, nine clearances, three tackles) was among the Dockers' better players in last Sunday's shock loss to Gold Coast and picked up five votes from Lyon and Stuart Dew.
Lyon insisted the Suns, who are favourites for the wooden spoon, were better than many pundits believed and said Fremantle had to improve its ball use in a home clash with St Kilda on Sunday.
"We weren't perfect in a lot of other areas, but that was clearly the biggest feature," he said.
"We'd like to move the ball and flow it a bit better than we did.
"AFL football is a really tough business. You can't always do what you want to do.
"At times, you might be a second off, and that's a long way in AFL footy."