Hayden Ballantyne will always be a bull at a gate.

But wisdom and injuries have taught him to be more careful about which gates he charges.

In the final stages of rehabilitation from the broken bone in his foot sustained in Fremantle’s round 22 match against Carlton, Ballantyne knows he is going to have to throttle back at times to make sure he doesn’t become a player who is all too frequently injured.

The broken bone had been Ballantyne’s second foot injury late in the 2010 season.

He felt it go in the first quarter against the Blues, played on and ended up missing Fremantle’s two finals.

“I went to push off it and felt it give way, just go pop,” he said.

“It was pretty shattering missing finals when it was the first finals the club has played in a couple of years.

“It was the first finals series all the young fellows played together as well and I missed out on that.

“It was pretty devastating but it gives you drive for this year and makes you want to play better and get there again.

“I think in the next couple of weeks I will start running and hopefully start full training after Christmas.”

At 23, after two seasons in the AFL, Ballantyne has kicked 43 goals and is rapidly establishing himself as one of the competition’s most dangerous small forwards.

But he has also missed significant chunks of both his AFL seasons, playing eight games in 2009 and missing six games last season, giving him a new sense of perspective on how to look after his body.

“When I first got here I was flat out – as fast as you go at everything but I know now you have to temper yourself and not go balls out at everything – just relax when you have to and go hard when you have to,” he said.

“I have always been a bull at a gate all of the time. I got it from mum and dad I guess.

“I am a bit full-on most of the time and can get a bit anxious. It can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing as well.”

Ballantyne’s injury has underlined his need to be more cautious at times. He is walking normally now but still wearing padded footwear to protect the foot as it repairs. And he has no choice but to take things easily.

“Overdo it and it could be back to square one again so I have to treat it carefully,” he said. “Watching the boys at training has been killing me – I just want to get out there but I just have to pull the reins back and take it easy.”

Of course that does not mean he will be adjusting his feisty on-field persona once the games start.

“I am not going to change. You are not out there to make friends, you are out there to win a game of footy,” he said.

Ballantyne believed he improved in his second AFL season, kicking 33 goals including a haul of six.

He also wants to expand his game further, rather than being pigeon-holed as a small forward.

“I would like to play midfield again,” he said.

“I had a few goes in 2010 and I would hope to play a bit more in there in 2011.”

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