To understand the need for versatile defenders at AFL level, you need look no further than Fremantle’s round 11 loss to Hawthorn.

Key defender Antoni Grover found himself with the job of manning small forward Cyril Rioli at different stages, with the star Hawk kicking five goals for the match.

It’s a situation that frequently arises in games as opposition coaches look to expose certain defenders by changing match-ups and rotating smaller midfield players forward.

Versatility has never been more valuable in defenders, and it’s a trait Fremantle is developing in Ben Bucovaz and Dylan Roberton, who both spent time on a variety of opponents in round 12 of the state competition.

“Dylan and Ben are at that height where they need to play on mediums and smalls and you need a number of skill attributes to do that,” assistant coach Simon Lloyd said.

“I think that’s where the game’s at. On the weekend Cyril Rioli got going and we had Antoni Grover who had to go to him, so you really need guys that can play on a variety of talls and smalls.

“To do that thought it’s really about working on speed and agility. It’s a lot about being able to cut off the small forwards’ speed.”

Michael Barlow was the headline act in an extended list of Fremantle WAFL players, with the 23-year-old’s successful return from a broken leg lifting the spirits of everyone at the club.

Justin Bollenhagen also returned from a knee injury, with Byron Schammer named WAFL player of the round for his hard-working performance for Claremont.

Ahead of Sunday’s clash with Essendon at Patersons Stadium, Lloyd shared his WAFL notes with

Peel Thunder 16.8 (104) d Perth 14.10 (94)

Justin Bollenhagen (reserves)

Justin played with the Perth reserves in wing and high half-forward roles in his comeback game from a knee injury. On occasions he crumbed the ball at high speed, which looked really impressive, and he kicked a nice goal on the run. He showed good courage in the third quarter going back hard with the flight. Now he just needs to build up his conditioning.

Clayton Hinkley (reserves)

Clayton played a very physical game for the Peel Thunder reserves, putting his body over the ball and contesting well at stoppages. He used his speed more than he has in recent weeks and played with a really good attitude, tackling and chasing. He’s played a couple of solid weeks of football and he’s been discussed at match committee, so he just needs to keep up the consistency.

Michael Barlow (reserves)

Michael played two quarters on a wing for the Peel reserves and made a very positive step back into competitive football. He won the ball in congestion, he was clean, he received the ball by running well both offensively and defensively and he was constantly on the move. He had 15 touches, so he was very professional in his comeback.

Jayden Pitt
Jayden was used in a high forward role for Perth and he played the position really well, working into dangerous spots and finishing with 16 important possessions. His running speed and patterns were positive, he showed a strong desire to get involved in the game and he constantly used his first option. Jayden didn’t have a big pre-season being his first year, but one of his assets is his aerobic running and that will continue to come to the fore.

East Fremantle 11.5 (71) lost to South Fremantle 12.16 (88)

Ben Bucovaz

Ben started at half-back for East Fremantle and defended a variety of tall and small opponents. While he showed some real dash in the first quarter he wasn’t as clean with his ball-use as he has been in recent weeks. He was moved to the forward line in the last quarter where he snapped a great goal from 40m. Ben’s been playing some good footy recently, so he just needs to get back to that standard.

East Perth 11.8 (74) lost to West Perth 12.14 (86)

Josh Mellington

Josh ended up kicking three goals for West Perth, constantly moving and working high up the ground as a forward. His goalkicking efficiency was a positive and he kicked the sealer from 40m.  He also applied a lot of pressure through tackling when the ball was in his area. It was a strong game from Josh and he showed how competitive he is.

Dylan Roberton

Dylan played as both a running back and a key defender for East Perth, matching up on a mixture of mediums and smalls. He beat most of his opponents on the day, but he could have positioned himself higher up the ground at times and re-positioned his opponent. He used the ball effectively and he showed good direction and instruction out on the ground.

Jay van Berlo

Jay played wing and on-ball for West Perth and he took a little while to work his way into the game. He had a greater impact in the second quarter and kicked a nice goal against the flow of play. He played on-ball in the third quarter and there were patches where he really attacked the ball and showed desperation. It wasn’t a great game for Jay, but his work-rate was evident throughout.

Hamish Shepheard
Hamish played in the ruck and as a key forward for East Perth and he was competitive in the ruck. There were a number of instances where he followed up his tap work and showed a good line at the contest, and he also showed some exciting lateral movement when in possession on a couple of instances. He’s had better games this year, so it’s a matter of Hamish putting together consistent football now.

Claremont 17.12 (114) d Subiaco 9.14 (68)

Byron Schammer
Byron played off a wing and through the midfield for Claremont, and the really pleasing thing for us was that he showed some good acceleration and used the ball well. He didn’t have as many possessions as he normally does, but he really made them count and his offensive spread was a highlight. He had six inside 50s and his tackling was also a strength of his game.

Jack Anthony
Jack played forward for Subiaco and looked sharp from the beginning of the game, leading well high up the ground and making the most of his opportunities. For a large period of the game Claremont had an extra man in defence, but Jack dealt with that and launched himself at a couple of marking contests, causing the ball to spill. He pushed up the ground defensively, which is something we’ve been working on, and he laid two good tackles.

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