Ballantyne says more to come
Fremantle forward Hayden Ballantyne says he is still yet to hit peak fitness after an electrifying four-goal performance in his side’s 29-point win over North Melbourne on Sunday.
Ballantyne, whose pre-season was restricted by a lingering foot injury, booted 4.5 and had 25 possessions at Patersons Stadium in Fremantle’s third win of the season.
As he continues to emerge as one of the competition’s most effective small forwards, the 23-year-old said he still had another level to reach this season.
“I’m slowly starting to get fitter and hopefully there’s some form to follow,” Ballantyne said on Sunday night.
“Towards the end of last year I was starting to get a bit of form and I was hoping to start off with that, but the injury took my pre-season away.
“It’s slowly getting there. Each game I feel a bit better and hopefully it just keeps getting better.”
Ballantyne played 19 games last season and finished sixth in Fremantle’s best-and-fairest award, but he missed the club’s two finals appearances after breaking his left foot against Carlton in round 22.
The feisty goalsneak said it was heartbreaking to spend September on the sidelines, but feels Fremantle is in a position to build on last year’s breakout season.
“We wanted to improve on last year,” Ballantyne said.
“At the moment we have lost a game (against Geelong in round two), but I think we’re having a real crack and we’re getting some good results.”
Fremantle captain Matthew Pavlich turned Sunday’s game with a powerful third quarter in the midfield, finishing with a game-high 34 possessions and 12 clearances.
The skipper spent limited time in the forward line, but Ballantyne said Fremantle could continue to release Pavlich to play further up the ground after its 18 goals on Sunday came from 10 different goalkickers.
“It’s good to see him in the midfield, he always gets it in there for us. When he’s running with the ball, you know nine times out of 10 he’ll do something with it,” Ballantyne said of Pavlich.
“It’s great to see him up there playing great footy and it’s of benefit to the team.”
Pavlich, David Mundy and Nat Fyfe were Fremantle’s standout midfielders on Sunday, with the eye-catching Fyfe also pushing forward to kick two goals.
The second-year star finished with 32 possessions, and Ballantyne said he had taken his game to a new level this season.
“He’s a freak athlete. He can run, jump – we call him ‘The Avatar’ because he’s just unbelievable (with) some of the things he does.”