Whether it was a case of coincidence or simply just good timing, Michael Frederick had been thinking about a derby debut long before it became a reality.

The Fremantle young gun was selected to make his AFL debut in Freo’s first game in front of a home crowd in 2020 – a round seven RAC Derby clash against West Coast. 

While WA’s Covid-19 restrictions limited the Optus Stadium crowd to a capacity of only 30,000 – it was arguably a better outcome for the nervous debutant.

“I’ve always wished to debut in a derby, and it made it that much better (when I did),” Frederick said on The Footy Yarn podcast.

“Watching showdown’s (between Adelaide and Port Adelaide) growing up, I was like ‘how good would it be to play in front of 50,000’ and I said to my host family when I first moved in with them how good it would be to debut in a derby.

“I told them if it was 60,000 in the crowd I probably would’ve fainted.”

00:33 Mins
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Frederick's big moment on debut!

Michael Frederick joined the AFL goal-kicking list with this stunner on debut.

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The lead up to Frederick’s debut began after round one, as the league entered a shutdown period at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic across the country.

With each of the players given individual training programs, Frederick used the opportunity to prepare his mind and body for a potential AFL berth once the season resumed.

“We all got basically the same as our pre-season individual program, so we were doing that for about 8 or 10 weeks,” Frederick said.

“I think my mindset for those training sessions was pretty good and coming back (to the club) I just felt ready to go.”

Ultimately, a scratch match against the Gold Coast for players who missed out on Freo’s round six comeback win against St Kilda, would allow for Frederick’s talent to shine through.

“I played a bit more forward in that (scratch match) game and I kicked three goals,” Frederick said.

“My calf was sore (afterwards), and I didn’t train in the week leading up to the derby.

“The physios were doing everything they could and were making sure I was right to go…but in my head I thought ‘far out will I get picked this week?’

“(I said to myself) ‘don’t get your hopes up, settle down, we’ll have a team meeting tomorrow and I’ll see what they say.’

Thankfully, club physios cleared Frederick of any calf damage – but the good news had only just begun.

“Five minutes later, Peter Bell goes ‘come here Mick!’…I walked into the office and there is JL (Justin Longmuir) by himself,” Frederick said.

“I was looking for a camera (in the room), but I didn’t see one!

“He said, ‘this is the best part of my job, I just want to tell you that you are playing’ and when he asked how I felt I just didn’t know what to say.”

03:09 Mins
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RAC Derby debutant | Michael Frederick

Justin Longmuir tells Michael Frederick he is going to debut in the RAC Derby

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Frederick went on to play six consecutive games before being managed for Freo’s round 13 clash with Sydney. 

The flashy forward was recalled for Freo’s round 15 clash with Richmond at the commencement of Freo’s second hub stint in Queensland. 

Frederick played all remaining games to finish the season with ten games to his name and plenty of lessons learnt along the way.

“Knowing that my role on game day is not (just all about) getting a lot of footy – it’s about forward pressure,” Frederick said.

“When I was younger, I just used to think I needed to be the one with the ball in my hands.

“(At Freo) it’s so based on role, which is one thing I like about how we play our footy – everything is more role focused.”

Rewinding back to the beginning of 2019, Frederick was entering his second season of under 18’s football. 

Playing as an over-ager as a then 19-year-old, Frederick knew it was the best opportunity he would have to prove his potential.

“(I thought) this is probably my one and only chance to show what I’ve got and possibly get drafted,” Frederick said.

“I don’t think my first half of the year was that great, but my second half was pretty good.

“My last three games…I probably got drafted off of those games.”

When the draft rolled around, the South Australian product wasn’t certain he would hear his name be called out, but if it did, Frederick knew that he would be a Fremantle Docker.

“The three days (from the draft to arriving at Freo) went so quick,” Frederick said.

“I didn’t go into (the draft) thinking I would get picked, because I don’t think I was projected to go, but talking to my manager he said you are a chance of going late or as a rookie.

“I always sort of knew that if I was going to be drafted it was going to be Freo – just from the meetings I had with them and I loved it.

“There’s that many South Australian boys in the team as well which helped – Crowden, Giro, Cox.” 

“I think I adjusted pretty quick – in the first year you just focus on your footy a fair bit…the year went by quickly.”

Frederick’s plan this off-season is to enjoy a short stint exploring the south of WA, before heading home to South Australia to visit his family- who dearly miss him.

“I’m going down south to Dunsborough for four days and after that I’ll head back home to Adelaide,” Frederick said.

“(This year) I FaceTimed Mum a fair bit - she misses me a lot.”

05:36 Mins
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Michael Frederick joins Yokayi Footy

Yokayi Footy's Bianca Hunt yarns with Michael Frederick about his debut, culture and Fremantle's great win against Collingwood in round nine

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