AFL wait fuels Ballantyne’s hunger
FREMANTLE goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne says waiting for his opportunity at AFL level has made him hungrier to succeed and inspired a dream 2010 season.
Ballantyne, who was recruited by Fremantle as a 21-year-old after winning the 2008 WAFL Sandover Medal, kicked a career-best six goals against West Coast on Sunday, putting his stamp on a 75-point derby demolition.
The 23-year-old has now kicked 32 goals in an impressive second season and is on track to achieve the 40-goal mark he set for himself at the start of the year.
He said he never gave up on his AFL ambitions, despite being overlooked at consecutive drafts as a Peel Thunder junior.
“I was always hoping I was going to get a chance and I was lucky Freo gave me the chance,” Ballantyne said from Fremantle Oval on Monday.
“I knew it was going to take a lot of hard work and I was a bit edgy on whether I was going to get picked up.
“The more you miss the harder you want to work and try get to it.
“So far I haven’t missed a game, so I suppose it is a dream season. I just want to play every game and keep doing my part for the team.”
While he sits second at the club to captain Matthew Pavlich for goals kicked this season, Ballantyne said it was chasing down players and causing turnovers that he most enjoyed.
Ballantyne has laid 58 tackles this season, and he said it was an aspect of the side’s game plan that had been drilled into all players.
“When you chase someone down you demoralise the opposition as well and then we get a goal and it lifts us,” he said.
“That’s definitely one of the great things about our game, to be able to chase someone down from behind and it just kills the opposition.
“It’s been drilled into all of us; put pressure on, force the turnover and punish them on the offensive as well.”
Fremantle confirmed its first finals appearance since 2006 with its 12th win on Sunday, but Ballantyne was careful not to look ahead to what would be his first finals series.
“Yesterday we were preparing for West Coast, today we’re preparing for North Melbourne – it’s no different to any other week,” he said.
“I know it’s a boring answer but it’s true. That’s what we’re going to be focusing on.
“Last week we all know wasn’t good enough and we wanted to make a statement yesterday and I think we did.”