Fremantle midfielder Stephen Hill says he has worked hard to improve the contested side of his game in an effort to overpower opposition taggers this season.

Hill was best afield in Fremantle’s win over Port Adelaide in round seven, with the damaging 22-year-old left to run free in the first quarter, racking up 10 disposals and two shots on goal.

Despite close attention from Tom Logan after quarter time, Hill, who said he couldn’t remember the last time he started a match without a run-with opponent, went on to finish with 26 disposals and a team-high six clearances.

He is now ranked No.2 at Fremantle for contested possessions and clearances behind Michael Barlow, and is averaging 18 disposals a game (he had five touches against Gold Coast in round six when he was subbed out with a corked thigh).

“I’ve learnt to be a better clearance player and really get in there and win my own ball a bit more,” Hill said on Wednesday.

“I think that’s helped to get them off me a little bit, and I’ve also been working to run hard and try and wear them off that way. I try and use my speed and endurance as much as I can.

“I’m working with our midfield coach Mark Stone on ways to work my body and read the ball.”

Hill was joined by teammate Michael Johnson on Wednesday as the AFL celebrates Indigenous Round, and both spoke about the important contribution indigenous players have made to the game.

Johnson, whose partner Dayna gave birth to the couple’s third child, Nevaya, on Tuesday, said he grew up admiring West Coast stars Chris Lewis and Peter Matera.

“I always looked up to those indigenous players and what they did on the field, but also what they did away from the field,” he said. “They were great role models.

“I played with Jeff Farmer, Troy Cook, Des Headland, these great players. It’s certainly a special round for myself and all the indigenous players out there. It’s a great initiative.”

Johnson said indigenous role models like Cook and Farmer had been important early in his career, and he now enjoyed being a mentor to other indigenous players himself.

“When these young guys come through and they look up to me, I’m there to give them support and help and guide them along the right track,” he said.

“Last year I did a mentoring program on indigenous mentoring and that’s one thing that I’d like to do after my AFL career, move into that field and help young indigenous people to succeed in life and achieve the goals that they want.”

Johnson has been in strong form for Fremantle this season, returning to half-back and averaging 22 disposals a game in a consistent start to the season.

The 27-year-old said a stable back six had made it easy for him to rediscover the form that saw him finish runner-up in Fremantle’s 2006 club champion award.

“Ross (Lyon) has come over and given me the opportunity to go back there and play my footy and let me do what I like to do on the footy field. It’s been great,” he said.

“We’re a really close group, which has made a bit easier to go back and enjoy my footy down there.”

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