Suspended Fremantle forward Michael Walters has wiped almost 40 seconds off his best 3km time trial time, but his battle with skinfolds is likely to see him banished from the club until late in the NAB Cup.

Fremantle sent Walters back to his WAFL club Swan Districts on January 20 after he failed to heed warnings about his fitness and weight.

Coach Ross Lyon said the 21-year-old’s training performances had improved but he still had other work to do before he’d be welcomed back.

“There’s a uniform benchmark that every club would use,” Lyon said. “If you don’t meet it, we give you all the support and encouragement but there comes a cut-off date where you’re not getting there, like young Walters that went back to Swan Districts.

“We certainly support all our people but we challenge the behaviour and the door is open for everyone to conform to the expectations.

“He’s going really well. We’re in constant communication with him. He’s in full training and he ran a really good 3km time trial last night.

“We’re hopeful of a return but at the end of the day, you act your way in and you act your way out.

“He certainly can act his way back in. I think everyone’s got to understand that the door is open for Michael and we’re really keen to have him back but he’ll decide whether he comes back or not.”

Walters has played 11 games since being selected with pick 53 in the 2008 national draft. He kicked the winning goal against Brisbane in round one last season but was dropped in round four and didn’t return. A knee injury ended his season in round 16.

Fremantle play West Coast and Essendon in the opening round of the NAB Cup at Patersons Stadium on Sunday.

Defenders Luke McPharlin, Antoni Grover and Alex Silvagni are unlikely to play while David Mundy is now in doubt for round one of the season proper.

“He’s around here today in rehabilitation, sort of running and jogging. He’s still a way off,” Lyon said.

“Speaking to him, he thinks he’s a chance for round one. I said ‘you’re being a bit optimistic’ but those great players tend to prove you wrong. I’m hoping that’s what’s going to occur.”

South Australian draftee Lachie Neale and rookie Sam Menegola have both impressed over summer and are set to get their opportunity.

“Lachie Neale, as a first year player, will play,” Lyon said.

“He’s come out in the intraclub and got a couple of touches so he’s got a bit of work to do yet. It’s a big step up. He hasn’t done anything wrong. He’s done a lot right.”

We’re hopeful of a return but at the end of the day, you act your way in and you act your way out.” Ross Lyon.

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