Caleb Serong has been recognised by his peers as the AFL Players best first year player after an outstanding debut season.
The announcement comes on the same day Sean Darcy, Andrew Brayshaw and Adam Cerra were named in the AFL Players' 22under22 and Matt Taberner, Luke Ryan and Nat Fyfe were named in the 40-man All Australian squad.
The 19-year-old slotted straight into Fremantle’s midfield for their round four clash against Gold Coast and the no.8 draft pick played well beyond his years.
Despite playing 14 of a possible 17 games, he racked up six more inside 50s than any other Fremantle player and ranked third for average clearances and tackles per game.
Serong was told the news by captain Nat Fyfe during a team meeting leading into their round 18 clash with the Western Bulldogs, with Fyfe highlighting some past winners of the award in Adam Goodes, Chris Judd, Joel Selwood and former Freo teammate Michael Barlow.
“There were a few cameras in the team meeting so we thought someone might be debuting but Fyfey got up and told us I’d been awarded the best first year player. I was taken aback by it,” Serong said.
“I wasn’t really expecting it, it was pretty cool to hear it from him, to get up and shake his hand and have that moment in front of the boys was pretty cool.
“It’s a great honour. I try to pride myself on being a really tough opponent to play against.
“Hopefully, that’s what my opponents and teammates have taken away from the year, that I don’t give an inch.”
Serong said it didn’t take long before he felt he could match it at AFL level, highlighting Fremantle’s clash against Geelong where he went head to head with Patrick Dangerfield.
In what was his fifth AFL game, Serong had 22 disposals, seven tackles and a goal for the night while Dangerfield had 18 touches and three tackles.
“For the first few games you’re trying to find your feet. It’s a big whirlwind, your mind is running so quick and you’re just trying to fit in,” Serong said.
“Once you get to the fourth or fifth game, I think it was against the Cats, I started to feel more at home and the boys started to really bring me into it.
“I was learning a lot each week and that was my stepping-stone into the rest of the year.”
Serong said one of his highlights of the season was playing in front of the Freo fans at Optus Stadium.
“It was amazing, I heard from all the boys how special the crowd was and how up and about they get. I know it was only half capacity, but they were still really loud,” Serong said.
“I just can’t wait to get back there next year and play in front of a full crowd at Optus. I think we’re really building something special at this club and we can’t wait to share that with the fans next year.”