Fyfe defends physical AFL approach

AFL Brownlow Medallist Nat Fyfe is determined not to change the way he plays, despite the obvious risk of suspension.

The 24-year-old Fremantle star won the prestigious award on Monday night with 31 votes, three clear of last year’s winner Matt Priddis from West Coast.

Fyfe won despite being fined twice during the season for incidents.

He was then reported for a high bump on North Melbourne’s Ben Jacobs in round 21.

If the match review panel had upheld the charge, given the two previous fines, it would have made him ineligible to win the Brownlow for a second straight season.

But the panel cleared him of the Jacobs rough conduct charge.

“My contested ball is (instinctive) footy and I make no apologies for that,” Fyfe said.

“Unfortunately, or fortunately, the game is going in the direction of player welfare and safety.

“A consequence of that is more guys getting rubbed out or suspended for things that would otherwise be seen as incidental contact.

“So I won’t change the way I play, and, unfortunately, that’s going to cost me games down the track, but it’s my greatest strength.”

Fyfe admitted the reports had taken their toll, saying the North players had taunted him after the Jacobs incident.

“When you have 10 blokes running up to you and telling you you’re handing the Brownlow to other people, it’s hard for it not to be at the forefront of your mind,” he said.

“And then you get booed for the rest of the game.

“So all the players are aware of it and, as they should, use every little bit of information they can as a taunt or to try to put you off your game.

“That’s certainly something that has been hurled at me over two and a half, three years.”

Fyfe added the game had good intentions in trying to protect players.

“Fortunately, I’m not in a position of having to make those decisions … I just play,” he said.

Asked if the pressure was off him now, he replied: “Somewhat.”

Fremantle’s season ended on Friday night with the preliminary final loss to Hawthorn.

“It would be great … sitting in Perth getting ready for a grand final, because that still remains head and shoulders the goal I want to achieve,” he said.

Fyfe is also impatient to improve even more.

He only played two of the last six rounds in the season because of leg injuries.

The onballer is the first Brownlow Medallist in 50 years to win despite missing four games during the season.

“I’m hungry to get better – half a year doesn’t fulfil me and not playing in a grand final, a premiership team, doesn’t fulfil me,” he said.

“I do think I have improvement in my game.

“The No.1 thing for me clearly is getting my body to a position where I can play a full season of footy.”

Fyfe was walking with a cane at the count after suffering a leg fracture early in the preliminary final.

He somehow played out the game and was among the Dockers’ best.

Fyfe will undergo surgery later this week.

Coach Ross Lyon said after Monday night’s count that he was “uncomfortable” with Fyfe playing despite such a serious injury.

Lyon said he did not know of the injury until well after the game.

Fyfe said being Fremantle’s first Brownlow Medallist was a massive honour.

“That’s extremely humbling and it’s great to be able to share some success with the group,” he said.

“This is genuinely a team and Fremantle footy club medal.”

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