Fremantle utility Garrick Ibbotson says he is feeling the physical benefits of Australia’s International Rules tour of Ireland as he prepares to bulk up and make a more permanent move into the midfield next season.

Ibbotson played his best football across half-back in 2010, but the 22-year-old is aiming to add 5kg to his 84kg frame this pre-season and develop as an inside midfielder.

He said touring Ireland last month had allowed him to return to pre-season training this week in good condition while he had also learned from some of the game’s best accumulators.

“Spending time with guys like Matthew Boyd, Daniel Cross, Dane Swan and Adam Goodes, the captain, you get to learn and see how they train,” Ibbotson said from Fremantle Oval on Thursday.

“I think it’s a big thing, to see how they train [and] the sort of effort that they put into their footy off the field.

“It was good just to have that two or three weeks where I could go train and also enjoy myself doing something a little bit different. It was perfect timing and I do feel like I’ve come back in pretty good shape.”

Ibbotson said Fremantle’s coaching group had directed him to develop as an inside midfielder during his end of season review, with the club building a deep list of players capable of running through the middle.

He said he expects to spend time across half-back and half-forward next season, but more than half of the side’s game-day 22 would need to be capable of running through the midfield in 2011.

“I think anyone who plays on a half-back or a half-forward line can move into playing through the midfield, and the wingers can switch and swap,” he said.

“It helps the team with rotations – you can rotate guys that are already on the field rather than having people coming on and off so much.”

Fremantle club champion David Mundy made a successful transition from half-back into the midfield in 2010, becoming one of the competition’s best clearance players.

Ibbotson said he would spend the pre-season learning from Mundy, as well as captain Matthew Pavlich and star youngster Michael Barlow, as he remodels his own game.

“My whole junior career and career up to now I’ve played on the wing and on half-back where there’s a bit more space, a bit more time,” he said.

“[I’ll] use the pre-season to really work on learning from midfielders that have been there for a long time.”

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