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Led by the likes of Alex Pearce, Joel Hamling, Nathan Wilson and Luke Ryan, Fremantle have emerged as one of the best defensive teams so far in 2019.
Freo have conceded just 67.7 points per game to rank as the second stingiest defence in the AFL behind Geelong, who have conceded 66.8 points per game.
It’s not just Freo’s big defensive names who have taken a step up, with Ethan Hughes enjoying some good form to start the season.
After playing 18 games in 2017, Hughes struggled for form in 2018 and managed just five appearances.
The defender broke back into the team in 2019 to play in the opening six rounds.
His numbers are up across the board in a lot of crucial defensive areas including intercept marks, spoils and ground balls.
He’s also helping Fremantle impact the scoreboard more with an uptick in score involvements.
|Games||Disp||Effective Kicks||Metres gained||Intercepts||Marks|
|Int. Marks||Spoils||Forced Turnovers||Ground ball gets||Score Inv||Score Launches|
“It was definitely a tough year last year but I assessed where I was at and I put my head down over the summer,” Hughes said.
Hughes said he knew he had to put the hard work in on his fitness, skills and decision making during the pre-season.
“It was a long four months over the pre-season, where I had a lot of work to do. I feel like I’ve put that in and I’m only looking forward from here.
“The work was on the way I needed to fit into the team as well as my personal skills, working on what I needed to improve on.
“It’s not an easy job for anyone but I feel I’ve done the extra work and it’s been working with me so far.”
Hughes isn’t expecting it to be easy to hold down a place in Fremantle’s backline.
He paid tribute to fellow defender Ryan Nyhuis, who impressed in his first appearance of 2019 on Saturday against the Western Bulldogs.
Nyhuis came in for the suspended Taylin Duman and ensured the coaching group have a selection headache for Sunday’s clash against Adelaide, when Duman is eligible to return.
Nyhuis (10) and Hughes (9) led the game for intercepts while taking six marks each. Nyhuis also had 11 contested possessions and 19 disposals at 100 per cent efficiency.
“The back six, we all gelled together,” Hughes said.
“Nyhuis was great coming into the team, he played the same role that he’s been playing in the WAFL.
“We’ve got that trust that anyone could come in and play that role, Ryan was a great example of that as someone who can come straight into the team.”