Bradley shapes as Pav’s foil
Fremantle forward Kepler Bradley has set himself to repeat the strong start he made to the 2011 season, with the slimmed down goalkicker shaping as a key cog in Ross Lyon’s three-pronged tall attack this year.
Bradley, who has lost 7kg across his past two pre-seasons, showcased his ability in the opening 10 rounds last season, kicking 20 goals before he suffered a head injury against Essendon and a calf injury when returning through the WAFL.
The former Bomber backman still finished the year as Fremantle’s equal leading goalkicker, alongside Chris Mayne (25 goals), but the interruptions left him frustrated.
Now, after booting three goals to kick-start his NAB Cup campaign against Richmond last Saturday night, the 26-year-old plans to cement himself in Lyon’s new-look forward line alongside captain Matthew Pavlich.
“Last year for the first 10 games I was a key forward and I go into this season with pretty much the same mindset, so hopefully I can help out ‘Pav’ and play my role,” Bradley said this week.
“I’m probably one of the older guys now, so it’d be nice to nail down a spot in the forward line and help the young guys come through.
“Being 26 and having played 100 games I’ve got a bit of experience, so I just want to go out there this year and show that and get a kick.”
It is no secret that Fremantle needs to revamp its forward line this season under Lyon, with Bradley’s tally of 25 goals last year the second lowest return (ahead of Gold Coast’s Danny Stanley) of any club’s leading goalkicker.
Pavlich, who averaged 68 goals a season between 2005 and 2008 as a star key forward, will return to attack, but Bradley said the skipper would need support.
“It’d be nice for more guys to kick over 20 goals so you don’t know who the goals are coming from,” he said. “If we get it inside 50 a bit more, which is our plan, we can obviously get more scoring opportunities.”
After gaining significant weight and strength to play centre half-back with Essendon between 2004 and 2007, Bradley has spent the past two summers rediscovering the athletic strengths that were his trademark as a former first-round draft pick.
The 199cm forward will enter this season weighing 95kg and, like a number of his teammates, ran a personal best 3km time-trial earlier this pre-season.
“I’m covering more ground and I’m a bit quicker than what I was in previous years,” Bradley said.
“Over the last three or four years the forward line role has changed a little bit, so you cover a lot more ground. Losing the weight makes it easier to travel those distances.
“It’s always good to have the upper hand with your fitness, but you don’t want to lose your strength either.
“The key is to find the balance and I think I’ve got that pretty much right.”
As well as revamping the forward line on-field, Fremantle recruited highly respected assistant coach Peter Sumich from West Coast to bolster its off-field stocks.
Bradley said the two-time premiership full-forward had been a great influence on him this pre-season.
“To have someone fresh at the club and to get to know him has been really good so far,” he said.
“He takes me aside quite a bit and teaches me a few things and he’s had some new ideas that we’ve tried out and they’ve paid off so far.
“He knows what he’s doing, so it’s wise to listen to what he says.”