He’s arguably the most hated player in the competition, but Fremantle goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne says he received nothing but love from his AFL rivals during his recent International Rules adventure.
Ballantyne linked up with the likes of Luke Hodge, Patrick Dangerfield, Brendon Goddard, Harry Taylor, Nick Riewoldt, and Sam Mitchell for Australia’s 56-52 Test loss to Ireland in Dublin.
The Australian squad also spent time together in New York in the lead-up to the game.
Ballantyne has become renowned for his ability to annoy opponents during his seven-year football career.
But the 28-year-old said he was on friendly terms with his AFL rivals during their trip to America and Ireland.
“It was really good. There were no haters over there,” Ballantyne said.
“We were all in one team, and all played as a team.
“The whole team gelled really good straight away. In the first night in New York we went out and had dinner together and had a couple of drinks, and got chatting.
“We all shared a story about our wife or partner while we were over there, and then they did vice versa. We got to know the partners as well.”
Ballantyne was among a number of Fremantle stars who returned to pre-season training on Tuesday.
Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe was restricted to some light running and kicking as he slowly builds up his workloads following surgery to fix a lower leg fracture.
But while the first-up session was relatively light, a 3km time trial is planned for Wednesday, with the Perth temperature forecast to reach 36 degrees.
“I can’t wait,” Ballantyne said with a laugh.
Ballantyne managed just 15 goals from 15 games last season.
It was a far cry from his 2014 All-Australian campaign that yielded 49 goals.
Ballantyne’s aim for 2016 is a simple one: “No injuries and more goals basically,” he said.
Fremantle finished on top of the table last season before being bundled out of the flag race by Hawthorn in a preliminary final.
Ballantyne said the Hawks loomed as the team to beat yet again after they made it three flags in a row.