Hayden Ballantyne is Fremantle’s version of the human cannonball, and coach Ross Lyon can’t help but feel worried.
Ballantyne has missed the past two games with a fractured cheekbone following a tackle gone wrong, but he’s been given the green light to return in Sunday’s western derby against the West Coast Eagles.
The 29-year-old has a history of head issues, having broken his jaw twice during 2014.
The way Ballantyne fearlessly attacks the ball and his opponent is normally a coach’s dream.
But Lyon wants Ballantyne to do it in a safer way.
“There’s been a couple of instances where he hasn’t protected his head,” Lyon said.
“He’s quite ballistic in his attack on the ball at times, and we just need to discourage that in a sense and find a technique.
“But as John Kennedy snr said, injuries above the head don’t count.
“They can repair jaws and those sort of things.
“They’re not concussions, which is really good. We’ll work with him to get better.”
Ballantyne has trained with a helmet this week, and is likely to use it in Sunday’s game.
Ruckman Aaron Sandilands also wore a helmet after breaking his cheekbone in 2013.
“It’s a good look, isn’t it?” Lyon joked.
“Ballantyne borrowed Aaron’s from when he played.
“He took the mickey out of Aaron for a long period of time, and now it’s his turn. It’s more a facial helmet.
“An AFL ground is a tough place to be. It takes courage to play, and coming back from injury it takes more mental strength. But he’s got that in spades.”
The return of Sandilands (broken ribs) and Ballantyne is a huge plus for the struggling Dockers, who copped a 90-point thrashing from Sydney last week.
West Coast have been bolstered by the return of star ruckman Nic Naitanui.