The barometer for Rory Lobb's game is his contested marking. The way he flies for the ball or uses his body reveals the freedom and confidence the Fremantle forward is playing with.
It's a stat that can be used to map his form this season, with his three best games – including the past two against Gold Coast and Collingwood – all returning an equal season-high four contested grabs.
After a quiet start to the season that was delayed by a frustrating knee injury, Lobb's return to form in the past five matches has been critical in the Dockers' push for a top-eight spot.
And with sidekick Matt Taberner sidelined for a month with a calf injury, Fremantle will be hoping Lobb can keep his run going after booting 11 goals in his past five games.
"I feel like my game has come back now and I'm feeling really good going in each week," Lobb told AFL.com.au.
"I really set myself for a big year this year and I was disappointed with my performance in the COVID games last year.
"I took a backseat to 'Tabsy' and I felt like I was playing my role for the team, but I wasn't really taking the game on.
"I really wanted to look to this year to get back to my strengths, like contested marking and coming at the ball really hard."
Lobb, who is in his third season at Fremantle after being traded from Greater Western Sydney at the end of 2018, enjoyed a faultless pre-season until a practice match against West Coast in early March.
The 207cm forward/ruckman was caught under a tackle in that match and suffered a strain to his ACL and damage to the posterolateral corner in his right knee.
A rapid recovery saw him return in round five, but his confidence in his body was not where it needed to be and he averaged one contested mark a game for his first month, kicking three goals in that period.
"I felt like I was just running around more like a small (and) I wasn't using my body like I should have," Lobb said.
"I feel like now I have full confidence in my body and being able to engage some big key backs and owning the drop zone a little bit more.
"When I do play with freedom, nothing else goes through my mind when that ball is in the air. It's more 'this ball is mine', or 'this ball is coming to ground'.
"If there's a high ball in the area, I pretty much just put my name on it."
It's an approach that was evident with less than two minutes to play against Collingwood last Saturday when Lobb sent himself back and then flew for a critical pack mark that ended any chance of a Magpie rally.
Lobb's season started to gather momentum five weeks earlier against Sydney in round 10 when he was arguably best afield with four goals, nine marks and 18 possessions (10 contested).
He presented up the ground to take some key contested marks late in the game, and he kicked for goal with confidence, with his 4.0 return his best since round 21, 2016 and an equal career-high.
The notable aspect of Lobb's goalkicking this season has been the shortened run-up, which has helped him ditch the stutter-step approach that became a mental hurdle in 2020.
"I was really frustrated that they came back last year, so I basically worked on it pre-season and talked with forwards coach David Hale and we both thought that I didn't need much of a run-up to get the distance," Lobb said.
"So I shortened it right down and felt like the shorter it is the less that can go wrong mentally for me.
"It wasn't really a thing that I was worried about kicking a goal, it was more worrying about my run up. That's why we really shortened it.
"I take two walks and four strides and kick, and I feel like it's working really well for me."
Lobb played the best football so far of his 116-game career in 2016, ranking No.3 in the AFL that season for contested marks (2.5 a game) and booting 29 goals in his third season with GWS.
He is confident he has another level in him now, however, with his goal returns (1.5 a game) and marks (5.9) both career-highs in 2021.
If contested marking remains his barometer, however, Lobb's past fortnight shows his best football could be just around the corner, right as Fremantle needs it.