Fremantle goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne is on track to play an expanded midfield role in 2012 after completing his first full pre-season in four years at the club.

Ballantyne has spent this summer working closely with new stoppages coach Mark Stone, learning the subtleties of playing onball.

The 24-year-old was restricted by a knee injury during the 2011 pre-season and suffered a series of hamstring injuries through the year as a result.

But with a clean bill of health this summer and a focus on developing as an onballer, he is physically prepared to spend more time in Fremantle’s midfield rotations in 2012.

“All of my pre-season training has been around the midfield area, so I’ll still play forward but hopefully get a bit more midfield time this year,” Ballantyne said on Thursday.

“Now that the fitness base is up and I’ve done a good pre-season, I’ll get the chance hopefully.

“At the moment I am fitter. I don’t necessarily have to be the fittest bloke on the track to play midfield, but a big fitness base is a help.”

Ballantyne was used midfield in bursts last season when an injury crisis robbed the club of its best onballers, winning 20 or more possessions in three of his 17 games.

He said the defensive side of playing midfield and the centre bounce structures had taken time to adjust to this pre-season.

“That’s been the hardest thing for me – it’s pretty technical compared to playing down in the forward line and just running amok,” he said.

“It’s very technical this year. Mark Stone, our midfield coach, he’s been amazing just showing me the ropes really.

“I’m learning that there’s a big defensive side to the midfield.

“They’re really smart and they know where to go all the time, so that’s something I’ve got learn. I’ve been watching a lot of clips on good players to see how they go about it.”

Ballantyne, who is an ambassador for Melanoma WA, was joined by teammates Paul Duffield, Nick Suban, Jay van Berlo and Jack Anthony on Thursday to have their bodies checked for signs of melanoma at Fremantle Oval.

It is an issue Ballantyne is committed to raising awareness about, alongside his friend and former Peel Thunder teammate Clinton Heal, the chief executive and founder of Melanoma WA.

Heal was diagnosed with melanoma at the age of 22 when he was playing for Peel alongside Ballantyne, and he has since had 34 of the dangerous skin cancers removed.

It has been a tough journey that he is using to raise awareness of melanoma in the community, partnering with Ballantyne and the Fremantle Football Club.

“Footy has been a really important part of my life, pre and post being diagnosed with cancer,” Heal said.

“I’m very happy to be involved with the Fremantle Football Club and Hayden as our Melanoma WA ambassador to really promote skin cancer and skin awareness.”

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