Hill bids for more time in midfield
Stephen Hill has set himself the challenge of nailing down a permanent midfield role at Fremantle next year and overcoming the close scrutiny of the AFL’s best taggers.
A slightly stronger, older but considerably wiser Hill concedes that beating tags will be one of his biggest challenges in 2011 after opponents identified him as the Dockers’ most dangerous ball carrier in the latter half of last season.
His spectacular football earned him fourth place in the club’s best and fairest. It also earned him match-ups against the AFL’s toughest taggers, culminating in a round-19 lesson from expert North Melbourne stopper Brady Rawlings when Hill was kept to just seven possessions.
Hill admitted that that game and several others were invaluable learning experiences he would take into next season.
“It was a pretty tough day,” he said of the clash with Rawlings. “Brady is experienced and is a good player and he had help from the team as well.
“I couldn’t get into the game. If it comes around again next time I am sure I will have a lot of help from my teammates.
“It is something I will learn from and work on for next year and I am sure I will get over it.
“It can be a tough game and it doesn’t always go your way. You have just got to keep working hard, I guess. You just have to keep your head down and keep working.”
Hill, still only 20, admitted he may have become distracted by the close checking.
“It probably did bring my confidence down a bit and I did think about it a bit too much,” he said.
“I wasn’t focused as much as I should have been on what we needed to do.
“I probably will have to deal with it next year. I will just keep working through pre-season to get my fitness right up and my strength ready to go.”
Like senior teammate David Mundy yesterday, Hill was setting no lofty goals for 2011. Rather his focus is on getting into the best shape possible before reassessing before the start of the home and away season.
But he does want a midfield role, a step up from the high half- forward he has played with so much flair for much of his 45-game career. He believes the change could help him cope with taggers.
He will be able to run them harder and further and they will have players like Mundy and Michael Barlow to think about stopping.
“I just want to work through the pre-season, get my fitness right up, work on getting stronger so I play more in the midfield,” he said.
Hill worked on a running program during his break, has come back weighing about 80kg and is starting to build a stronger physique.
“I have put on a kilo or two and I think I could put on another couple of kilos, but the fitness staff are managing that,” he said. “We have to make sure I keep my speed up.
“The previous year a lot of the young guys came back a couple of weeks early to do a lot of weights but this year was a bit different – I just stuck to my running program.”