Fremantle midfielder Hayden Young has opened up about his journey in the AFL, revealing how lowering his expectations and embracing a more relaxed approach to the game ultimately led to an improved performance on the field.

Young, taken at pick 7 in the 2019 National Draft, entered the league with high ambitions but quickly faced the harsh realities of professional football with the young defender's early playing days marred by injury including ankle surgery in 2020 and a significant hamstring injury in 2021.

Playing only 13 games across his first two seasons at Fremantle, the young midfielder revealed on the Club’s Better Down Back Podcast, powered MyPlace how the weight of expectation played on his mind.

"I felt the pressure of being a high draft pick and sort of not coming in and having an immediate impact," Young admitted.

"I felt a bit flat about that and felt the pressure of thinking 'this is not what they (Fremantle) wanted out of their first-round draft pick'.

- Hayden Young on the Better Down Back Podcast

“I suppose I came in as a really ambitious kid, I wanted to play straight away, play really well, get a Rising Star straight away but that just wasn't my reality and I had to wrap my head around that.”

However, it was during his rehabilitation that Young had a crucial realisation. He recognised that his intense focus on achieving immediate success was counterproductive.


“Obviously I really wanted to reach my goals but thinking about my goals all the time while I was in rehab wasn’t helping me,” Young revealed.

“Before I did my hamstring I would go out and play and be like I need to get this many touches, or I need to take mark and do this because I want to be Rising Star or be in the media as this young star.

“The more I chased that early on (in his career) the further it got away from me.”

This epiphany led to a significant shift in Young's mindset. Instead of fixating on personal accolades and media attention, he began to prioritise his recovery and simply enjoying the game.

"After coming back I played a bit of WAFL and got back into the senior side and I remember just thinking 'how good is this to be back, I don't really care how I play'," Young said.

Ironically, it was this relaxed approach that ultimately brought Young closer to his initial goals. After a strong performance against Richmond (23 disposals, three marks, one tackle) in 2021 he received his desired Rising Star nomination.

"I found that the less I thought about what I wanted to achieve and just enjoyed playing footy and having fun the closer I got to my goals,” Young admitted.

This experience has shaped Young's current approach to the game. While he maintains his ambition to perform well, he now focuses more on his role within the team and enjoying each game.


"I've tried to keep that mentality going forward," Young stated.

"It obviously gets tricky because you are still very ambitious and you want to play well every game, but I just try to go out there every week and enjoy it, focus on what my role is for the team and then just let the other stuff take care of itself."

As Fremantle continues to develop its young talent, Young's evolved mindset could prove crucial in both his personal success and the team's performance in the seasons to come.