The AFL’s best defenders can consider themselves warned – Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe plans to spend more time up forward next season as Fremantle search for the extra goals needed to secure that elusive first AFL flag.
Despite claiming their maiden minor premiership in 2015, the Dockers were outscored by 10 other clubs during the home-and-away season and could only manage 10 goals in each of their two finals.
With all-time leading goalkicker Matthew Pavlich expected to announce his retirement, Fremantle’s need for more scoring punch is greater than ever.
That’s where the 190cm-Fyfe comes in, once he recovers from impending surgery to repair the broken leg sustained in the preliminary final loss to Hawthorn.
“From here I think it’s all about diversification,” the 24-year-old Fyfe said on Tuesday as the reality of becoming the Dockers’ first Brownlow medallist began to sink in.
“Clearly the No.1 issue I’ve got is my body, being able to get through a whole season unscathed and uninjured – so I will have to build some more tools into my body.
“The reality is I’m going to have to play more as a forward and kick more goals.
“We’ve got a midfield that is developed and has got plenty of firepower now so that will be a big focus of mine next year.”
Fyfe spent much of his junior career in attack and has always loved kicking goals, averaging just under one per game in his career to date.
“With the marking ability as sort of a goal now it’s only natural that I go forward and spend time there,” he said.
“With the game developing to 90 rotations and no sub rule there is going to be more emphasis on players spending more time on the ground – rather than resting on the pine, guys are going to be resting forward.
“I think that’s something I can exploit.”
Fyfe was due to visit his surgeon on Tuesday and will have his broken leg operated on this week, which will allow him time to recuperate before hitting the ground running for the start of the pre-season campaign.
Dockers coach Ross Lyon admitted on Monday night he was uncomfortable that Fyfe had played on with the leg fracture suffered midway through the preliminary final against the Hawks.
Fyfe rose above the pain to again be one of Fremantle’s best players in the 27-point loss.
It was a remarkable act of will power, although Lyon did not find out about the extent of the injury until well after the final siren.
“We’re not wearing it as a badge of honour as a club,” Lyon said.
“We’re not uncomfortable because we were negligent, but we were uncomfortable because we’d prefer it didn’t happen.”
Fyfe went into the game with an existing leg injury, having missed four of the last six games of the regular season.
It was thought that barren end to the year might cost him the Brownlow, but Fyfe amassed enough votes early in the count.
He finished with 31 votes – including a record nine best-afields – to win by three from 2014 Brownlow medallist Matt Priddis of West Coast.
While Lyon was uneasy about Fyfe playing out the preliminary final, the coach heaped praise on the onballer for his season.
“Nathan sits comfortable alongside any other Brownlow medallist with his level of performance,” Lyon told Channel Seven.
“It was extreme, it was consistent and yet he’s not satisfied.
“It’s a clearly significant performance.”
Fyfe went to a new level this year following a rigorous training program during the off-season.
“His legs looked enormous – I couldn’t believe it,” Lyon said.
“And all summer, he was just tearing the house down on the track and was just building on it and stacking the work.
“Then once we started playing games, it just erupted.”