Fremantle coach Ross Lyon says Nat Fyfe is a “big boy” who’ll be able to handle any punishment that comes his way in Sunday’s AFL clash with Melbourne at the MCG.
Fyfe is the raging favourite to win this year’s Brownlow medal following his hot start to the season and Gary Ablett’s shoulder woes.
Demon hard nut Bernie Vince looms as Fyfe’s likely shadow on Sunday, and it could be a torrid affair if recent history is anything to go by.
Just two weeks ago, Vince bullied star Adelaide midfielder Patrick Dangerfield from pillar to post in a tagging effort that raised a few eyebrows.
Lyon isn’t worried Fyfe will cop a similar dose of harassment this Sunday.
“Nat’s a big boy. We’re all big boys. We can all look after ourselves,” Lyon said.
“I just think he competes fiercely, Bernie Vince. You’ve got to admire that.
“He’s leading from the front. We take no backwards step. We’ll just see what happens.”
The Dockers have been boosted by the return from suspension of goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne, who copped a two-week ban for his high bump on Geelong’s Harry Taylor.
Ballantyne has now been suspended seven times during his 108-match career, but Lyon said the 27-year-old didn’t deserve to be overlooked for selection this week as extra punishment.
“We didn’t see it as an undisciplined act. It was a split-second decision,” Lyon said.
“He’s stacked such a high level of commitment and performance over a long period of time.
“And we liaised with our leaders, and really our whole player group, and they were unanimous he should play.
“We don’t expect miracles, we just expect him to do what he does – which is come and pressure and the opposition extremely well, and crumb some goals.
“It’s a good addition, and it should help Michael Walters, who gets sat on pretty tightly.”
The Demons impressed in last week’s win over Richmond, lifting the perennial strugglers up to 12th on the table with a 2-2 record.
Fremantle haven’t lost to Melbourne since 2011, but Lyon predicts Sunday’s clash will be a hard-fought affair after watching the Demons beat Richmond last week.
“They are the number 1 tackle team in the AFL and that says it all,” Lyon said.
Meanwhile, Lyon says he holds no ill feelings towards discarded midfielder Colin Sylvia, who retired earlier this week after 18 months of struggle at the Dockers.
“It didn’t happen here for Colin but hopefully somewhere in his life he fulfills on the possibility and the potential he has got,” Lyon said.
“There is no ill feeling here, it is just the disappointment that the relationship didn’t work.
“The actions didn’t stack up here and therefore we come to a mutual agreement.”