In the midst of Fremantle’s crippling run with injury, rookie forward Tim Ruffles provided a rare positive for the club at the weekend when he made his playing return from back-to-back knee reconstructions.

Ruffles was Fremantle’s WAFL player of the round after a long, arduous recovery from the knee injury he suffered against Hawthorn in round 21 last season.

Assistant coach Simon Lloyd said the 20-year-old, who was delisted last year and placed on Fremantle’s rookie list, had made the most of his time on the sidelines and had been well supported by his teammates and the club.

“It’s a really tough thing to go through, but we’ve been really pleased with Tim,” Lloyd said.

“You look at him now compared to two years ago, and there’s much more bulk to him. The feedback we’ve had from the conditioning staff is that he’s worked really hard and really diligently.

“We won’t be expecting him to set the world on fire, but the way he went about it on the weekend was a good start.”

While Ruffles got through his comeback game unscathed, small forward Michael Walters wasn’t so fortunate, reinjuring a knee in his first game for two months.

Lloyd said the focus for Walters would be on doing everything he can to get himself right for the start of next year’s pre-season.

Ahead of Friday night’s clash with Collingwood at Patersons Stadium, Lloyd shared his WAFL notes with

Peel Thunder 12.15 (87) lost to Perth 15.7 (97) 

Justin Bollenhagen 
Justin played wing and high forward in his first game for Swan Districts, running some really good patterns, which has been our focus with him. He reacted quickly and he managed to get his possessions from some very good long-running efforts, also kicking two goals. He took to his new club enthusiastically and he put his body on the line to set up a goal in the third quarter, which would have gone a long way to him earning the respect of his new teammates.

Casey Sibosado 
Casey started at centre half-forward for Perth and had a really tough day, with plenty of learning points to come out of his game. He didn’t have a lot of the ball, so it’s important for Casey to realise that a game of footy is not always going to go your way. He went into the game with some soreness, but once you’re out there you need to be able to work through tough situations. We wanted to see more physical pressure and more intent when chasing and tackling.

Joel Houghton 

Joel started on a wing for Perth, also playing ruck and in defence. The thing we’re looking for from Joel is more aerial presence, particularly when he pushes up hard as a forward. He didn’t make strong body contact nearly enough as a forward and was moved into the ruck and defence for most of the second half. He competed well in the ruck and got touches from being around the contest, and he was used as a plus one in defence, positioning better in the last quarter.

Tim Ruffles (reserves)
Tim played for the Perth reserves in his comeback game and he looked up and about early, getting involved with some really good spread. He started at half-forward and continually pushed up the ground before kicking a banana goal with his opening kick. In the second quarter he had seven touches and his use of the ball was good. It was just great to see him out there again and involved in some nice passages of play.

West Perth 12.18 (90) lost to East Perth 18.9 (117) 

Hamish Shepheard
Hamish played forward for East Perth and had a quiet day. In the second quarter he took a strong mark and converted from 50m, and there was another good grab he took on the lead, kicking the goal from 35m. They were the highlights, but Hamish needs to focus on his repeat leads and constantly being involved in the game. We’ve seen some very good, exciting things from him, but we need the repeated efforts.

Swan Districts 17.9 (111) d South Fremantle 12.11 (83)  

Michael Walters (reserves)

Michael played midfield and as a high forward for the Swan Districts reserves, unfortunately re-injuring a knee early in the second quarter. He started well, controlling the corridor and covering his team’s exit points, and his work-rate was good. He ran hard in defensive transition and was used twice on the counter attack, and he provided direction for his teammates, assuming a senior role. As we’ve come to expect, Michael’s ball-use was generally clean.

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