Fremantle coach Ross Lyon has praised draftee Lachie Neale after the teenage midfielder made an impressive start to his AFL career in Sunday’s NAB Cup matches against Essendon and West Coast.

Neale, who was selected with pick No.58 in the 2011 NAB AFL Draft, has been one of Fremantle’s standout performers this summer and he took that form onto Patersons Stadium for the club’s opening pre-season matches.

The South Australian kicked two goals in his team’s 36-point win over Essendon before a quieter match against West Coast and Lyon said he had slotted in well against AFL opposition.

“He did (look comfortable),” the coach said on Sunday night.  “I suppose we’ve been a little bit bullish about him.

“In the second game he faded, but that was to be expected and it would have been easy to sub him out but we just kept him going.

“He’s just put another step in the right direction.”

Neale, who dominated at under-18 level for SANFL club Glenelg last season, was one of just 25 Fremantle players used across the two shortened matches on Sunday.

However, Lyon said he would introduce more senior players for the club’s next NAB Cup match, against Richmond at Patersons Stadium on March 4.

“We’ve got a few coming back. (Antoni) Grover didn’t play, (Alex) Silvagni didn’t play, Luke McPharlin’s handy,” the coach said.

“Kepler Bradley is significant, Jon Griffin’s another one … he’s in full training I think at the end of the week, so they’re the types that just build that selection pressure.”

Lyon said midfielder Anthony Morabito, who is returning from a full knee reconstruction, was on track to play pre-season games, while Michael Barlow would be treated cautiously for the next two weeks after a setback with the leg he broke.

“He (Barlow) has done a really full pre-season and obviously had that slight hiccup, but it’s only a couple of weeks off legs and then he’s right into it,” Lyon said.

“He’s really confident, I’m confident. He’s such a good inside ball winner it just takes some pressure off the others. We’re really optimistic there … the plan is if he has no hiccups he’ll be available for round one.”

Lyon said his backline had stood up across the two shortened matches on Sunday night despite McPharlin, Silvagni and Grover all missing.

The coach was also encouraged by a forward line that included captain Matthew Pavlich but was missing Hayden Ballantyne, who played midfield for longer periods.

“I thought they looked quite mobile and dangerous,” he said of the forward contingent that also included Chris Mayne and Jack Anthony.

“I thought they were really positive and I think as we throw Kepler into that mix, I think there’s a bit to like.

“He (Ballantyne) did look very lively and it was a step in the right direction through the midfield.”

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