Fremantle coach Ross Lyon insists there’s no selection pressure on Hayden Ballantyne, but says he will consider moving the goalsneak into the midfield in a bid to release the shackles.
Ballantyne’s form slump has mirrored Fremantle’s dramatic fall from grace this season, with the 28-year-old managing just seven goals from six games, at an average of nine possessions per match.
The 2014 All-Australian has been kept goalless in his past two games, with a heavy cork suffered against Carlton two weeks ago limiting his recent output.
Lyon guaranteed Ballantyne selection for Saturday night’s clash with GWS at Domain Stadium.
And he’s backing the 173cm antagonist to bounce back to his best soon.
“I’m really pleased with Hayden. I really respect and value him. He’s certainly under no pressure,” Lyon said on Thursday.
“It’s the hardest position in AFL – small forward, particularly in a team that’s not playing that well.
“We’ve seen the shift in Michael Walters (after moving him into the midfield), so we’ll look to do that with Hayden as the season goes on – release the pressure valve.”
Lyon is set to continue with his new-look youth policy this week, with Ethan Hughes on track to earn selection for just his second AFL match.
But wingman Anthony Morabito is set to spend at least several more weeks in the WAFL before being handed a dream recall.
Morabito has undergone three knee reconstructions since 2010, and his brief three-match AFL return in 2014 was followed by a raft of soft tissue injuries.
The 24-year-old is pushing his case for a recall after stringing together three games in the WAFL over the past month, but Lyon said it was still too early to throw Morabito back into the AFL cauldron.
“He’s had his best summer. But you’ve got to set them up to succeed, not fail,” Lyon said.
“If we threw him in now, it wouldn’t be fair to him, and it wouldn’t be appropriate.
Fremantle sit last on the table with a 0-6 record, meaning their finals hopes already appear to be up in smoke.
Ruckman Aaron Sandilands (broken ribs/lung) is hopeful of making a return within the next two months, while Michael Johnson (hamstring/knee) could come back at the tail end of the season.
But if Lyon has his way, Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe will be wrapped up in cotton wool for the rest of the year.
“My view is we should take a conservative route with him,” Lyon said of Fyfe, who underwent surgery late last month on his broken leg.
“But Nathan is an ultra-competitive beast. I have ongoing dialogue with all my players, but I haven’t sat down and split the atom with him at all.”