Ryan Crowley got the advice to breathe fresh life into his AFL career in triplicate: From former coach Mark Harvey, new coach Ross Lyon and his father Larry.

It was unequivocal: Lose weight and get back to what he was good at – keeping up with and antagonising the game’s best midfielders.

The results so far are stunning. Crowley has shed 8kg and has been the star of this pre-season at Fremantle. Set one-lap running drills against Stephen Hill this week, Crowley lost the first but surged past Hill to win the second by more than 20m. Seeing Hill get windburn from anyone is rare.

It wouldn’t have happened last season when Crowley, preparing for a defensive forward’s role early, beefed up to a cumbersome 96kg, then found he couldn’t lose the weight.

“I was told that if I was going to go forward they would want me to play midfield,” he said. “When I played my best footy I was around the 90kg mark and they told me that had to be my goal.

“It was originally Harvs, then when I had a talk to Ross he said the same thing. When you get two voices telling you the same thing it hits home a bit.

“I am about 87 or 88kgs now. It is at least five years since I have been that light. A long time.”

He had gone away from what had made him a valuable player. His father was the third to make the point.

“He watches my game closer than anyone,” he said. “He has got a good footy brain and I listen to what he says. He is usually spot on. I usually don’t believe it straight away but concede down the track that I probably should have listened at the time.”

Crowley started running four days after the finish of the season. The club set him a program but he did extra. He made significant changes to his diet. To give him a boost, the out-of-contract 27-year-old received the vote of confidence from incoming coach Lyon that he was a required player.

“It was a bit of a change of mindset too,” he said. “I felt like I was just going through the motions a bit last year and that disappointed me when I thought about it. I decided that every time I went into a running session I was going to make sure I got the most out of it.

“I feel lighter and more agile. I don’t feel like I have lost too much strength, which is surprising but good. The biggest thing I noticed is that I recover quicker.”

Crowley has played 115 games but was frightened he would miss out when Fremantle turned the corner.

“I feel like the club is on the brink of something really good. I have been here 10 years and I didn’t want to just miss it,” he said. “I felt that if I showed them I really wanted it that I could still be here.”

The mindset doesn’t end with the running either. Crowley wants to again be the club’s top tagger – the one who gets the jobs on the likes of Chris Judd and Gary Ablett.

“I want to have those roles every week,” he said. “I want to play on big players and have big roles. I enjoy it.”

New coach, new attitude, new contract all points to a new life for Crowley. But there is a side effect. He needs new clothes.

“Every day it even feels a little weird jumping out of bed and I have had to change the wardrobe a bit because the clothes are getting a bit loose now,” he said.

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