Fremantle star Nat Fyfe has defended his AFL leadership style after criticism he can be too demanding on teammates.
Fyfe, the reigning Brownlow Medallist, only managed five games this season because of a broken leg.
While out of action since late April, Fyfe has regularly been in the news.
There is ongoing speculation about his long-term future at the Dockers, once he comes out of contract at the end of next season.
In the midst of Fremantle’s horror season, there has also been some criticism of him as a leader at the club.
“It (criticism) has certainly been a new experience but as an organisation underperforming, the blowtorch was always going to be on us,” Fyfe told AFL360 on Tuesday night.
“It’s been hard to take the criticism – I think it’s been a little unfair at times – but that’s the nature of the business.
“I won’t shy away from being a demanding leader but the relationship I have with all the players and coaches is really healthy and as a high-performing organisation that’s what we need.”
Fyfe fuelled talk about his long-term future last month when he said it would be remiss of him not to explore free agency options once his current deal with the Dockers expires at the end of next season.
But only a few days later, Fyfe backed away and suggested strongly to the club website that he saw his long-term future at Fremantle.
Speaking at Tuesday night’s AFL Players Association awards night, Fyfe said he remained unsure about what would happen in 12 months.
“It’s partly because I’ve thrown some bombshells in the media, which has got everyone talking,” he said.
“But it is what it is. I have come out publicly and said I’m really happy at Fremantle and want to be a part of their future.
“But this next 12 months is crucial for me and for our footy club to get things moving in the right direction.”
Fyfe had surgery six weeks ago to remove plates from his leg and he said he is back running.
“I will commence (pre-season) when everyone else commences,” he said.
“I’ve got a few intense training blocks over this off-season period that are pretty crucial but barring any mishaps I will be lining up when everyone else returns at the end of November.
David Mundy, and not Fyfe, succeeded long-time captain Matthew Pavlich this season.
Fyfe said the players as a group would again decide next year’s skipper.
“It’s quite public that our captaincy process is voted by the players,” he said.
“I’ve said before that I’m keen to be a leader and I’ve been a leader at our club for a number of years but the players will have their say.