Fremantle hard man Matt de Boer says the side’s young players are aware of their growing importance this season after driving Sunday’s 75-point western derby win.

With Justin Bollenhagen making his debut, Fremantle fielded 10 first- or second-year players against West Coast and the group set the standard for intensity and tackling pressure.

De Boer, who played possibly the best game of his 31-game career, typified the desperation of Fremantle’s young players when he lunged in Mitch Brown’s path deep into the third term to set up a goal for Bollenhagen.

The 20-year-old, who finished with 19 possessions and had a hand in numerous other goals, said those sorts of efforts summed up how he and his inexperienced teammates want to play the game. 

“We get together before each game and get in a little circle and say, ‘We’re going to set the standard here’, and things like that, so we’re going along pretty nicely,” de Boer told after the side’s seventh consecutive western derby win.

“We’ve got lots of players in there, so we just try and do our bit every week.

“We focus on sticking to team structures and trying to set the standard for intensity.

“I think we’re a very close group and every time we go out there, we’re getting used to each other and that’ll be really good for us going forward.”

Fremantle’s young players led the way in both contested possessions won and tackles laid on Sunday, two key indicators that combined to suffocate the last-placed Eagles.

Greg Broughton (13 contested possessions and seven tackles), Nat Fyfe (11 and seven) and de Boer (10 and six) were the top-three players in each category, with coach Mark Harvey describing the contested efforts of his young players as “the most important part of the way we won”.

It’s a style of play that comes naturally for de Boer, who has made the defensive forward role at Fremantle his own this season and shut down the opposition’s best rebounder each week. 

The former rookie clashed heavily with Eagle’s hard man Beau Waters on Sunday and has earned the nickname ‘Brick Wall’ with his teammates.

“It’s a running joke that the boys have … I tend to put myself in the way a bit,” de Boer said, adding that the defensive forward role suits his style of play. 

“If I’ve helped the team with a bit of pressure and set a few goals up then I think I’ve done all right.

“I’m happy to play wherever the team needs me.”

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