Ballantyne eyes midfield role
Fremantle goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne is hopeful his first full pre-season can translate into an expanded midfield role under new coach Ross Lyon in 2012.
Ballantyne was one of 14 first- to fourth-year players to start pre-season training at Fremantle Oval on Monday morning, with the group completing a series of short distance run-throughs in a light 90-minute session.
The 24-year-old, who is entering his fourth season, was restricted by a knee injury in his preparations for the 2011 campaign and he suffered three separate hamstring injuries during the year.
However, he is confident that a full pre-season will allow him to stay injury-free in 2012 and develop as a midfielder, where he showed promise for periods last season.
“I’d love to play in the midfield,” Ballantyne said on Monday.
“I think it’s more from a fitness kind of thing that I haven’t been pushed into the midfield, but hopefully if I can get through a full pre-season I might get a bit of a run.
“I’ve got a few goals I’ve set for myself and if I can get to them I should be a fair go in the midfield hopefully.”
Ballantyne, who finished ninth in the 2011 Doig Medal, stayed on at the end of last season to complete a sprint training program and fix flaws in his running technique.
He was hopeful that putting in the extra work would help prevent more hamstring injuries.
“I’ve got poor technique apparently when I run, so I was just trying to strengthen up certain muscles that aren’t working properly and get the technique right,” he said.
“I had about a week off with just complete rest and then started building up again slowly.
“If I can sharpen a few things up, it should help.”
As well as Ballantyne, Monday’s running group included Stephen Hill, Zac Clarke, Alex Silvagni, Tendai Mzungu, Greg Broughton, Josh Mellington, Peter Faulks, Gavin Roberts and Clancee Pearce, who was delisted but will continue training with the club in the hope of being re-rookied.
Nat Fyfe, Michael Barlow, Nick Suban and Dylan Roberton also completed light work.
Ballantyne said it was a low-key start to pre-season, but the workload would increase, with the fifth- to eighth-year players returning next Monday before the full group is back together on Monday 21 November.
“It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be,” Ballantyne said. “Just building into it this week and next week I think and then picking up after a couple of weeks.”
Barlow, who played nine games last season in his comeback from a broken leg is expected to start running in the next two weeks, while Anthony Morabito faces a similar timeline as he returns from a full knee reconstruction.
Fyfe, Garrick Ibbotson and Nick Lower, who all had shoulder reconstructions at the end of last season, are also progressing well.
It is currently unclear how Fremantle’s pre-season program will change under new coach Lyon, but sports science manager Jason Weber has forecast a shift in focus.
Players were briefed on the new coach’s expectations ahead of the Doig Medal presentation dinner on October 8 and Ballantyne said they had all been given programs for the break.
In terms of how the game plan will change under Lyon, whose defensive focus took St Kilda to three grand finals, including the 2010 replay, Ballantyne was tight-lipped.
“We’ve been given three points that we have to stick to and adhere to and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “But I won’t be sharing that today.”