FREMANTLE backman Antoni Grover has defended young teammate Stephen Hill after AFL great Leigh Matthews questioned his competitive nature in Saturday’s 54-point loss to North Melbourne. 

Hill was held to just seven possessions opposed to North Melbourne stopper Brady Rawlings, while his direct opponent finished with a game-high 39.

Matthews described the match-up as “the most lopsided differential in contribution that I can recall seeing in a one-on-one duel” and said it was a “savage indictment on Hill’s competitive mindset”.

Grover said it was unfair to single out Hill, who has become Fremantle’s prime target for opposition taggers at just 20, and said his teammates needed to do more to help the damaging youngster.  

“I think he’s a very competitive person, on and off the field,” Grover said from Fremantle Oval on Monday. 

“A lot of us had disappointing games on the weekend, so to single out one player I think is unfair. He’s not the only one that has to lift his game.

“That sort of comes up over the year, when guys get tagged and how we help him as a team … I think we’ve got to help out the blokes who get tagged.”

Eight Fremantle players, including captain Matthew Pavlich, had 13 or fewer possessions against the Kangaroos at Etihad Stadium, with a host of the side’s youngsters turning in quiet games.

Fremantle has debuted seven players this season and fielded 10 first- or second-year players against the Roos, but Grover said the group was not feeling the pinch of a long season.

“That’s one thing about having a young group – they’re energetic [and] they provide a lot of enthusiasm around the club, so I don’t think you have to worry about them dropping off,” he said.

“We’ve got terrific guys in the conditioning department that monitor them very closely. It’s a long season for everyone, across the board at every team.”

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