Fremantle will enter season 2011 without a ceiling on what it is capable of, but aware of the gap that remains between it and the AFL’s top four clubs, according to captain Matthew Pavlich.

Mark Harvey’s men jumped from 14th place in 2009 to sixth last season, before falling to Geelong in a semi-final clash at the MCG, and external expectations on the exciting young group are high in 2011.

Pavlich said continued recruitment of young players should allow Fremantle to have another strong year, but he refused to publicly set a target ladder position for the side.

“Externally you won’t be hearing anything from us about bold expectations or anything like that,” Pavlich said from the team photo shoot in Fremantle on Thursday.

“It’s about improving together as a group, it’s about developing further and seeing how far we can go. There’s no ceiling on what we can do.

“You go back to the previous year and the top four from last year were far away the best four sides in the competition.

“The step that’s [required for] every other team to get up to that level is significant. We absolutely respect that and understand it.”

Pavlich said Fremantle’s improvement this season would come from individuals going to a new level, increased physical preparation and a better understanding of how the side wants to play.

“There’s a couple of aspects, in terms of scores from turnovers and things like that, that last year really hurt us,” the six-time All-Australian said.

“We’ve been trying to work on maintaining the ball a little bit more – still moving it quick and playing the exciting brand of football that we were known for last year, but just trying to own the ball a little bit more at times.

“We’re confident that our game plan, going the way it’s going, can stand up no matter where we play.”

Fremantle players gathered on Thursday for the annual team photo shoot, with the crutches used by Anthony Morabito (knee) and Roger Hayden (foot) a reminder of the toll this pre-season has already taken.

Michael Barlow (leg) and Hayden Ballantyne (foot) continue their restricted pre-seasons, but Pavlich said the pair was on track to emerge early in the season.

“It seems as though they’re running well [and] they’re moving the way they should be,” Pavlich said.

“They’re in line with their rehab programs. Both had pretty severe injuries, so they’ve been monitored quite heavily with their workload throughout the whole summer.

“They’re on track to come out at some point early in the season.”

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