Fremantle have secured the playing future of two of their promising young players with Ethan Hughes and Sam Sturt agreeing to two-year contract extensions.
The rookie-listed Hughes is currently playing the final year of his contract with the new deal seeing him at Fremantle for at least the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
Sturt has an additional year remaining on his original two-year contract, with the two-year extension seeing him at Fremantle until at least the end of the 2022 season.
Hughes was originally taken as a rookie selection from Swan Districts in 2014 and the defender has played 38 games in his five seasons at Fremantle, including all nine games so far in 2019.
The 24-year-old has fought his way back into Fremantle’s best 22 after playing five games in 2018.
“It’s been a long road but I’ve really put my head down. There's been a bit of hard work but I’ve had a different approach to this pre-season and it’s worked out for me so far,” Hughes said.
“I’ve believed in myself and I had a bit of confidence going into this year, I knew what I could do and the way I fitted into the team over the first nine weeks. It’s been a challenge but it’s worked out for me.”
Hughes said he knows he can’t take his place in Freo’s lineup for granted.
“I still need to do what I need to do to help the team,” Hughes said.
“I'll put my best foot forward, work hard and play my role for the team, it’s going to help me for the rest of the year.
“We’ve got a lot of young players coming in, which helps out the club with depth but it puts a lot of pressure on the spots that we’re playing in.”
Hughes said he was looking forward to developing with the rest of Fremantle’s talented young backline, which includes the likes of Alex Pearce (23), Joel Hamling (26), Luke Ryan (23) and Nathan Wilson (26).
“We (the defenders) spoke about it this week, we’ve probably got at least another five or six years together as a group as a whole,” Hughes said.
“If we can build over the next couple of years, by the end of that time we would have built a really good connection.”
Sturt said the contract extension would help spur him on as he targets making his debut for Fremantle.
The 19-year-old forward arrived at Fremantle with pick no.17 in the 2018 NAB AFL National Draft.
“It’s a good weight off my mind, it gives me some reassurance. I was really happy when the club offered it to me so I took it with both hands,” Sturt said.
“Obviously a debut is the first thing on my mind but the contract extension means I can just focus on my footy.”
Sturt has spent an extended period on the sidelines since mid-April after being concussed for the second time this season.
He said that he was hungry to get back to playing football and was continuing to work hard on his strength and his game.
“I recently had the two concussions so I’m still out for another three weeks which is just precautionary, so there’s nothing really wrong which is all good,” Sturt said.
“I’d like to be getting a few games under my belt but it’s been really good to get in the gym and work on my skills as well.
“I’m still doing full training except there’s no contact. I’m just learning off players like Nat Fyfe, he’s been a big mentor for me, and Ed Langdon as well as, generally, I’ve been playing on the wing for Peel."
Fremantle list manager Mark Micallef said that he was pleased to see both Hughes and Sturt agree to extensions.
“Ethan has demonstrated a great ability to fit into our back six and we can see him being a long-term part of our future,” Micallef said.
“He’s very diligent and lives the trademarks of the football club, so he’s someone we’re delighted to sign on for another two years.
“We also see a really strong future for Sam at our football club. We’ve been really impressed with the transformation he’s made from almost 12 months ago to where he is now. He was someone that we really wanted to lock away for a further two years.”
General manager of football Peter Bell said that Fremantle were committed to taking a cautious approach with Sturt as he recovers from separate bouts of concussion.
“Sam resumed full training last week but at this stage we are planning that he will not be available for selection with Peel until round 10 of the WAFL season in mid-June,” Bell said.
“A player’s health and wellbeing are always paramount and, given that Sam sustained two concussions in a relatively short period of time, we are taking a very cautious approach with his return to playing.
“During the four-week block of training, the club and Sam will focus on his football craft and education as well as working on his physical development with our strength and conditioning staff before undertaking contact drills in preparation for playing in the second half of the season.”